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Church celebrates 100th birthday of Catonsville resident

ChristianityBaptistWorld War II (1939-1945)

Eva Page Brooks has lived through World war I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and the election of the nation's first black president.

The essential ingredient in a life that will reach the 100-year milestone on Feb. 28 is simple, said the Winters Lane resident.

"God," she said. "Just depending on Him."

On Feb. 9, Morning Star Baptist Church, where Brooks has worshiped for 88 years, hosted a birthday party for Brooks as part of its Black History Month celebration.

The event attracted 150 people and after 90 minutes of songs, stories and recognition, Brooks said she felt very humbled.

"It's too much for me. It's just wonderful," she said with a laugh after the ceremony. "It was a great experience just to get here. Everything has been too much."

During the event, Brooks received certificates of recognition from local and national politicians such as President Barack Obama,Sen. Barbara Mikulski, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

The second oldest of 10 children of Harvey and Susie Page, Brooks and her family moved to Catonsville from Halethorpe when she was 5, she said.

Her connection with Morning Star Baptist Church, which was founded in 1896, began when she was baptized there at age 12.

"She stands with a number of people who worked hard, not only to found our church, but sustain our church those early years," said Anthony Brown, Morning Star's minister of marketing.

"She's one of the gems of our ministry, who's had the opportunity to impact generations of believers," Brown said. "She's not only affected the spiritual impact of the community, she's affected the educational impact of the community."

In addition to teaching Sunday school classes at the church on Winters Lane, Brooks worked as a first-grade teacher at the Banneker School for more than 30 years, said Linda Johnson, one of Brooks' four children.

Last September, Brooks was honored during a special weekend celebration as the oldest living teacher from the school. Before Baltimore County schools integrated, Banneker was the only black school in the area and drew students from Arbutus, Halethorpe, Granite, Oella, Relay and Randallstown.

About 10 people at last week's party raised their hands when Brown asked how many had Brooks as a teacher.

Linda Johnson said her mother's contributions to the church and community took other forms as well.

During the celebration at church, several members of the congregation told how they often received cards from Brooks with a couple of dollars inside as they recovered from an illness.

"She's very giving and kind," said Johnson, who lives in Columbia.

Her mother continues to live independently for the most part, Johnson said, noting a caretaker only needs to check in on her in the morning and in the evening.

Brooks currently lives with her 93-year-old sister, Mary Manokey, on Winters Lane, where the Page family operated the neighborhood grocery.

"It's just nice to have someone you can talk to all the time," Manokey said. "It's just amazing to reach that age, even though I'm on my way there."

Brooks can trace her ancestry back to 17th- and 18th-century Virginia settlers Col. John Page and Thomas Nelson.

Last summer, she and her family became the first black family accepted into the Page-Nelson Society, a group dedicated to the legacy of the early settlers.

The February celebrations won't end for Brooks with last week's event. There is a another party scheduled for Feb. 28 at noon at the Jackson and Johnson American Legion Post 263, on Winters Lane, across the street from Morning Star Baptist Church.

"Everybody's been so nice," Brooks said. "They're going to do some more celebrating, but it's just much too much."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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