Clara Bridges, Atlanta Housing’s oldest living resident and nursing veteran of 33 years, celebrated her 102nd birthday with friends, family, and song at the Peachtree Senior Tower, where she has been a resident since 1975.

The spry centenarian, known for her sharp memory, recalls birthdays and phone numbers of nieces and nephews. At 102, she still has a quick wit, a zest for life, and the energy to exercise and enjoy healthy foods. 

She answered with hushed passion when asked for the secret to her longevity. “People don’t know. God rained down on us. Days like this, people don’t realize what senior citizens go through,” she explains. “How did you get there, Ms. Bridges?” she says, she is often asked. “I said, just a closer walk with God.”

Her wisdom continues. “I look back over my life and often ask myself, ‘Have I lived the life that was given to me to live? ’Cause a lot of us would take someone else’s life and live,” she explains. “But I wanted mine.”

The day’s treat was having one of her birthday wishes come true: to meet Dr. Bernice King. Dr. King reached a milestone birthday herself. “Whenever somebody this age calls, God’s speaking,” says King. “I hope we don’t take this moment for granted or lightly.”

An Atlanta native who grew up in what is now known as the West End, Bridges knew she wanted to be a nurse by the time she was seven. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School and completing nursing programs at Clark College and Grady Hospital, she enlisted in the U.S. Army and served honorably at four military installations. After 33 years of service in nursing, Mama Bridges, as she is affectionately known, retired to the senior high-rise in 1976, becoming its first Black resident.

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“Mama Bridges represents the best of Atlanta, our state, and our region,” says Eugene E. Jones, Jr., president and CEO of Atlanta Housing. We are privileged and honored to still have her in our lives, and the love and compassion she shares is a living example for us all.”

Renee Hewitt
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