By Clay Wilson
Susie Kate Greer Perry's Christmas memories are similar to those of many people: the warmth of family, lots of food, a tree and children eagerly awaiting Santa's arrival.
What makes Perry's memories different, though, is how far back she has to go to recall them.
This Christmas Eve, Perry, a Stockbridge resident, is celebrating her 103rd birthday.
"It think it's just absolutely amazing," said Darlene Mims of Forest Park, one of Perry's two grandchildren. "She's just the biggest inspiration in my life."
"She always said she'd probably outlive everybody, and she did," noted family friend Elaine Coxworth of Lawrenceville.
Perry was born Dec. 24, 1900, the daughter of Robert and Emma Hale Greer of Hampton. She was one of 11 children.
The Greers had an approximately 300-acre farm growing produce such as cotton and corn, Perry said. She attended school through the eighth grade at Fairview, which she said was "just a small country school."
She wasn't exposed to electricity, she said, until she was about 8 or 9 years old.
On Christmas Eve 1926, Susie Kate Greer married Charlie M. Perry, whom she had met through a friend at a Rocky Creek Baptist Church function. The couple soon set up housekeeping "in the country," with an address that fluctuated between Hampton and McDonough.
Charlie worked as a guard on the state prison camp's chain gang, although he ultimately retired from Snapper in McDonough. Ms. Perry was a housewife.
The couple had three children. One, Robert ("Bobby"), died at age 5 of diptheria. Melvin, who married Bonnie Garrett and fathered Darlene Mims and David Perry, died in March 2002 at the age of 70. Horace, married to Sue Tanner, will turn 74 in January.
Perry is the only surviving child of Robert and Emma Greer. Her last sibling, Billy, died several years ago. Her husband died in 1982.
"She's kind of the stronghold that keeps our family together," said Mims, who along with her two children, David Perry and several nieces and nephews make up Perry's surviving family.
"I've told so many people that if God made anyone perfect, it's her."
"She is really an extraordinary person," said David Perry, who also lives in Stockbridge.
On Sunday, Perry's family and friends held a birthday party for her at the house where she has lived the last 21 years n the Stockbridge home of the late Melvin and Bonnie Perry. (Although the family has hired daytime sitters and Mims and David Perry take turns staying with Ms. Perry at night, both said that their grandmother is still fiercely independent.)
According to Coxworth, between 35 and 40 people attended Sunday's party.
"It was so wonderful. I was just so thrilled at all the people that came," she said.
Perry said she never particularly minded that her birthday fell on Christmas Eve n reducing the occasions on which she could get presents.
"That's all right," she said. "I just took it as they come."
Her childhood memories of Christmas centered on her large family n cooking, the big Christmas tree and the 11 stockings hung by the chimney for Santa to fill with toys.
Perhaps it's fitting, then, that Ms. Perry will spend her 103rd Christmas with her family, too. Asked if she had any special plans, she said no; but Mims later said that she, her children and David intend to visit their matriarch.
Looking back over her lifetime, Ms. Perry indicated that the things that mean the most to her are the relationships she formed along the way.
"I loved everybody and everybody loved me, I reckon ?," she said. "I had a lot of good friends."