Local women celebrate 100 with wisdom, grace and McDonald’s

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Claudine Veney Keys Akins of Homestead turned 100 years old Aug. 24. Akins grew up in Homestead where she was part of the first class to graduate from Homestead High School.

After high school Akins got a job at Wilberforce University in Ohio where she met her first husband James “Jimmy” Keys. She was also active in Clark Memorial Baptist Church.

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BIRTHDAY GIRL—Standing, are from left: Grace Stevenson cousin; Jewel Garrison, cousin; Melva Arrington, cousin; Linda Smith, cousin. Sitting, from left: William Stephens, cousin; Claudine Veney Keys Akins, birthday girl and Claudine Peete, niece.

They lived together for many years before his death. She later became a house director for Shorter Hall on campus. Then she met Ohio businessman Richard Akins. They were married to a short time later and were together until his death. She moved back to Homestead a short time after his death.

Since the 1980s Akins has been an active participant in the Park Place African Methodist Episcopal Church school and the church services. She said out of the 100 years the most memberable event she had lived through was to become 100 years old. “There’s no secret what God can do.”

When asked about the racial gap between Whites and Blacks over the last 100 years she replied, “I feel that our women are still jealous over the White woman’s hair, and the Black man is getting back at the White man for mistreatment of our women through White women.”

Her reaction to the first Black president (Obama) was, “Well, growing up such a thing was never discussed because Blacks couldn’t vote so I never thought of us having a Black president but I think it’s just a natural thing, the world was ready and he was ready but his opponents weren’t.”

Akins added, “I would have voted for him even if I didn’t think he was such a great man because we voted for White men who were scandal­ous.” An athlete when she was a youth, Akins said her favorite athlete is Tiger Woods. “I love that golf player, Tiger Woods. I enjoy Tiger and his skill, I love to see him hit that ball.”

Akins remembers Marian Anderson as her favorite singer and even though she could sing, she never went into show business even after receiving many offers. “I loved to sing gospel and relig­ious songs and hymns, I really enjoyed singing “What a friend we have in Jesus,” “There is no telling what God can do,” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” I like things like that,” she said.

When asked if she had anything she would like to say to today’s youth, she said, “I think that they should not forget that there is nothing that God can’t do and there is no secret what God can do, so believe in God.”

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On Sept. 12, Nicy Simmons of Duquesne, marked her 100th birthday at her favorite place, McDonald’s restaurant at 101 Hoffman Boulevard. There she was greeted at the door via limousine services provided by Elite Coach Transportation, by none other than Ronald McDonald himself. Along with family and friends Nicy received the royal treatment and became a celebrity as media from the local Pittsburgh area honored her.

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SHE’S LOVIN’ IT—From left: Nellie Simmons, daughter; Eddie Green, great grandson; E’Bazjia, great granddaughter; E’xavier, great grandson; Ms. Nicy, Leon Andrews, great grandson; Felicia Bunns, granddaughter; Nelva Fennell, granddaughter; with Ronald McDonald.

Taking part in the celebration were family members representing three generations. Also present to share their gratitude to the 80-year- resident of Duquesne, were Melissa and Michele Rice, owner/operators. A proud African-American family, the Rices have owned the Kennywood McDonald’s for the past 10 years. “We’ve tried to take her to other restaurants but found she was very disappointed that she couldn’t get a McDonald’s cheeseburger,” said granddaughter, Felicia Bunns. A cake with candles spelling 100, and a birthday song sung to her by the McDonald’s employees, made her smile with glee as she thanked everyone for her very special day.

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