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The Suburbanite
  • Canton Woman's Club honors 13 Diva Dears

  • The women honored are Jeanette Stevens, Edna McIlwain, Lucille Clark, Annie Arrington, Audrey Snowden, the Rev. Mary Wheat, Helen Potillo, Emaline Turpin, Robbie Mae Moore, Lessie Myricks, Vivian Pender, Mary Frances Furlow and Agnes Hampton.

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  • Gerri Radcliffe wanted to do something to honor 13 senior women she had long-admired for their positive influences on her and the community at large.
    So, she organized the “Diva Dears.”
    Radcliffe recently hosted a dinner at the Canton Woman’s Club for the 13 women she selected; all of whom are in their 80s or 90s. More than 85 people attended.
    “I call them my divas,” Radcliffe said. “When I told them what I was doing, they were so appreciative. A couple of them cried, they were so appreciative.”
    The women honored are Jeanette Stevens, Edna McIlwain, Lucille Clark, Annie Arrington, Audrey Snowden, the Rev. Mary Wheat, Helen Potillo, Emaline Turpin, Robbie Mae Moore, Lessie Myricks, Vivian Pender, Mary Frances Furlow and Agnes Hampton.
    “This is the first class,” Radcliffe said “Everyone is saying we’ll have to do this another time.”
    “I feel so humbled,” Mrs. Turpin said. “I just turned 92, so it makes it that much more memorable.”
    The divas also were recognized by Mayor William J. Healy II by way of a proclamation.
    A couple of the honorees still work, including the Rev. Mary Wheat, who pastors a church, and Helen Potillo, an entrepreneur and world traveler who has written two cookbooks and is working on third. A native of St. Louis, Potillo, 84, moved to Canton with her late husband in 1947.
    “It’s a pleasure being honored,” she said. I’ve been honored many times, but this is the greatest.”
    Potillo said her secret to productive longevity has been “doing something constructive every day, meeting new friends and honoring God.”
    “Trust in the Lord and let him guide you,” added Edna McIlwain. The eldest of the group at 98, she still sings and volunteers at her church, Mount Olive Baptist.
    “Live each day to the fullest,” Mrs. Furlow advises. “Get the most out of each day of your life. Then you can look forward with confidence, and look back without regret. Develop a passion about something you love to do ... if you have a hobby that you are passionate about, you will never be lonely. Tell people that you love them at every opportunity.”
    To contact Radcliffe, call (330) 488-0494.

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