U.S. Rep Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, left, presents a plaque of Congressional Record to Helen Cordell in honor of her 100th birthday on Sunday at Sherwood Baptist Church.
ALBANY — The year 2012 is a milestone year in many ways. The Girl Scouts of America celebrated their 100th anniversary on March 12. Next month, the world will mark 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic. Many memorable things happened in the spring of 1912.
But in Albany, one woman is marking an event that few people get the opportunity to celebrate — a 100th birthday.
Helen Cordell was surrounded by friends, family, former students and even a U.S. Congressman Sunday afternoon in honor of her special day. The room at Sherwood Baptist Church was crowded and filled with love for a woman who has seen so much during her lifetime.
When asked what it is like to turn 100 years old, Cordell simply responded, "Wonderful. Blessed."
"Look to the Lord for everything you do," Cordell later gave as advice for people still looking ahead to that milestone birthday.
U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, attended the festivities and brought with him a gift from Washington. A plaque, which contained a statement of Congressional Record, was presented by Bishop to Cordell during the party. Bishop recently read the statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and asked his collegues to join him in paying tribute to Cordell, calling her a "beloved teacher and inspiring figure." Bishop served in Congress with Earl Hutto, Cordell's nephew, who represented Florida's 1st Congressional District from 1979-1995.
"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it," Bishop began his remarks to the hundreds gathered at the party.
"It is not often I get to do a presentation at a 100th birthday celebration. This will be only the fifth time," he continued. "Thank you so very much for all that you do, for all the lives you have touched, because you have truly enriched our state, our nation and the world is better because you are in it."
"Any time you can meet living history, it is a blessing," Bishop said in an interview with The Albany Herald, before his presentation. "Mrs. Cordell is deserving of the highest honor.
"She has touched so many lives. The world is better because of her. There have been so many beneficiaries of her life that are here to honor her today."
Cordell was born on March 18, 1912, in Chipley, Fla., to Albert Addison Myers and Meddie Fryer Myers. The family moved to Albany for a short time before moving to Rome, Ga. After earning a degree at Shorter College, Mrs. Cordell became a teacher.
In 1943, she was married to Master Sgt. Wayne C. Long, who was killed in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1968, she married Joel J. Cordell, longtime superintendent of Dougherty County Schools. The couple was married until his death in 1988.
She was a member of several organizations, including The Albany Garden Club and Gold Star Wives. She was a member of First Baptist Church and then Sherwood Baptist Chruch, where she remains a member.
Cordell's family knew they wanted to plan some kind of party as the date approached. They thought that Sherwood might be a good place to have it, as Helen is a longtime church member.
"We called the church and asked about having the party here. They then offered to host the event. We have to give lots of credit to the church for this," said Connie Cordell Barnard, Cordell's stepdaughter.
The line of well-wishers, who stretched outside of the room and down a hall, waited patiently to speak with the guest of honor and tell her what she means to them.
"I love her so much," said Reba Willis Stewart, who said that Mrs. Cordell taught her shorthand and helped her get a job at a bank. "She is the reason I'm a banker, and have been in the business for so long."
Throughout the afternoon, Cordell shook hands, hugged old friends and seemed incredibly grateful for the love that was around her. In her brief comments to the crowd, she made it clear where her thankfulness is directed.
"To God be the glory," she said before she returned to greet those still patiently waiting in line.