Centenarian wishes love for everyone

Published 11:05 am Monday, April 16, 2018

Last Saturday afternoon, Lena Wyche-Clark celebrated her 100th birthday in the Capron Ruritan building. Seated at the center of the table on the stage, the Southampton County native could see the 100-plus family and friends gathered to celebrate her life.

After she blew out all the candles of her cake — no, there weren’t a hundred — the time came for words from the guest of honor. Her message was a simple and heartfelt one of love for all.

“God knows that I love all of you. I’m glad I’m able to be here and thank you,” said Wyche-Clark, who added she was “real surprised” by the turnout.

“I’m so thankful and so blessed, blessed, blessed, blessed,” the centenarian clapped her hands for  emphasis. “From this day one, love one another. Please do!”

From the audience came words of love and admiration not just for achieving the century mark, but also for her positive influence in their lives.

Wyche-Clark was joined on the stage by her surviving daughter, Jean Gamble, and nephews, Jesse Wyche, Moses Wyche and Willie Wyche, who also served as emcee. He told his aunt, “You’ve been the queen lady of our lives. You will leave a powerful legacy.”

Among the honors presented to her was a resolution dedicated to Wyche-Clark from Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75.) That was presented by her legislative Mary Beth Washington. Another token of esteem came from Southampton Supervisor Dallas Jones.

Wyche-Clark was attended by her nurse, Terreka Thomas, who said of her ward, “She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. “It’s been a wonderful experience to know that she is so loved. It’s still a blessing for me in the time I’m with you.”

Born on April 2, 1918, she is the ninth of 12 children to Jesse and Virginia Parham-Wyche. She had accepted Christ at a young age during a summer revival at her parents’ Pentecostal church in Capron. Her education was at the former Jackson and Pleasant Plain schools. She was the first in her family line to be formally educated.

In her life, Wyche-Clark has had two husbands and five children; the others being Carolyn, Eva, Freddie and Russell. For her career, she worked in New York City as both a housekeeper and food caterer from the 1940s through the 1960s, and also worked at the Hibiscus Jamaican Restaurant. Wyche-Clark reportedly also had the opportunity to serve presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. On retiring at age 74 in 1992, she came back to Virginia four years later and settled in Hampton. There she’s a member of Antioch Baptist Church.