FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 6, 2016
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NYCHA AND TREES NEW YORK DEDICATE A TREE TO MISS SUSIE
NYCHA Resident Susannah “Miss Susie” Mushatt Jones Was World’s Oldest Living Person and Last Living American Born in the 19th Century
‘Forest Pansy’ Tree for All Seasons Will Be Living Tribute to Her Long Life and Achievements
NEW YORK— Today, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Trees New York honored the life of Susannah “Miss Susie” Mushatt Jones (July 6, 1899—May 12, 2016) with a tree dedication ceremony on the grounds of the Vandalia Senior Center at the Vandalia Avenue Houses in Brooklyn, where Miss Susie spent the last 30 years of her life. At the time of her passing, Miss Susie was the world’s oldest living person—and the last living American born in the 19th century. NYCHA and Trees New York were joined by Miss Susie’s family and many who knew her—from fellow residents and senior-center staff to elected officials—for the celebration of her long life and achievements, including her contributions to the community, on what would have been her 117th birthday.
“Miss Susie was a tenacious and admirable woman who sought to improve others’ lives with love and positive energy,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. “In the more than 30 years she called public housing home, she was an inspiration, beloved by all. This tree will stand for years to come, in tribute to Miss Susie’s commitment to strengthening her community over more than a century.”
“Trees New York is happy to honor Miss Susie by donating this redbud tree in her memory,” said Nelson Villarubia, Executive Director of Trees New York. “We are proud to continue our partnership with NYCHA to green NYCHA developments across the city.”
The Forest Pansy tree planted to honor Miss Susie was provided courtesy of Trees New York.
In 1983, Miss Susie moved into the Vandalia Avenue Houses for seniors in East New York, which had just been completed. She was active in her neighborhood for almost 30 years, participating in the "tenant patrol team" until she was 106.
Since Miss Susie turned 110 years old, the Vandalia Senior Center has thrown her a birthday party. It became routine for family members, local officials, residents and journalists to gather around her at the senior center to celebrate, with organizers serving bacon and cake. Miss Susie loved bacon – she had a sign in her kitchen that read “Bacon makes everything better” and reportedly ate four strips of bacon, eggs, and grits every day.
“As this tree grows tall and strong, it will reflect the legacy of Susannah Mushatt Jones, a woman we know as Miss Susie, who was a pillar her community in Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “In her 116 years, Miss Susie lived a chronicle of American history, from her birth in 1899 to tenant farmers in Jim Crow-era Alabama to voting for the first black president of the United States, twice. This tree will continue to remind residents of the Vandalia Senior Center and throughout East New York of her kindness and generosity of spirit.”
About Susannah “Miss Susie” Mushatt Jones:
Born in Lowndes County, Alabama, to Callie and Mary Mushatt on July 6, 1899, Miss Susie was the third child and oldest daughter of eleven children. Her grandmother, who reportedly lived to 117 years old, was an ex-slave, and her parents were sharecroppers on the same land her grandmother was forced to work. After graduating from the Calhoun Boarding High School in 1922, Miss Susie briefly worked helping family members pick crops. She wanted to become a teacher, and was accepted to Tuskegee Institute’s Teacher’s Program, but her parents could not afford tuition.
In 1923, Miss Susie moved to New York City, where she worked for a time as a nanny and housekeeper for several wealthy families, reportedly earning $7 a week, and supporting relatives moving to New York. Miss Susie helped send nieces to college with her salary and funded The Calhoun Club, a college scholarship for African-American students. Miss Susie never had any children, but she adored them. She retired in 1965.
As Miss Susie’s age climbed, she became the oldest person in New York, then the oldest in the United States. She received a birthday letter from President Obama, which hangs on her wall. Last year, Guinness World Records officially declared her the world’s oldest person. While she was fragile, had lost her eyesight and was hard of hearing, she was not bed-bound. The centenarian revealed to Guinness that she attributed her long life to lots of sleep, a lack of vices, love and positive energy.
Miss Susie passed away on May 12, 2016, at her home in the Vandalia Avenue Houses, almost two months shy of her 117th birthday. She is survived by more than 100 nieces, nephews, and godchildren.