“Many people can learn from her dedication,” he said. “She knew it was her right to vote as an American citizen, and she would not let anyone mess with that right.”
Victor might not fully understand the breadth of her popularity. Told she was a hot topic on Twitter, she politely smiled and nodded.
“Oh my Lord, I love me some Desiline Victor! #making102lookgood,” tweeted journalist and Black Entertainment Television personality T.J. Holmes to his more than 76,000 followers.
“Everyone in Haiti called her maren, godmother,” said her godson Pierre-Louis. “She was always helping people. She didn’t have any kids of her own, but her house was always full of children she cared for.”
Pierre-Louis, 38, was one of those children.
“She had me ever since I was 2 days old. She raised me and tolerated me,” he said. “She’s my mother.”
She moved to South Florida to find a job and help support her family. At an age where most people are retired, the then-79-year-old began working as a migrant farm worker in Belle Glade’s bean fields.
For 10 hours a day, she crouched, deftly stripping beans off plants.
Victor doesn’t remember how much she earned. “It wasn’t a lot.”
In conversation, she is quick-witted and fiercely independent. When talk veers to her getting a wheelchair, she cuts in: “For what? You see my two legs? They work. If I can walk, let me walk.”
It is that self-reliance that kept her in line for hours on the first day of early voting, Saturday, Oct. 27. She stood in line at the library for three hours before she reluctantly gave up.
“I could barely stand after three hours, I stood so long,” she said.
Later that day, she returned to the library, stood in line again, and finally cast her ballot.
At a press conference held later by Miami Haitian activists concerned about the delays in early voting, Victor spoke about her support for Obama.
“He loves the old people,” she said.
Peppered with questions about the secret to her longevity, she told the roomful: no stress, no sex.
Gihan Perera, executive director of the Florida New Majority, a group monitoring the elections, had learned from a field worker in North Miami about Victor’s story.
“Ms. Victor is a hero for everything she did to go out and vote,” he said. “There are some simple fixes to restoring and expanding early voting so that voting does not have to be the debacle that it was in South Florida.”
At home, Victor leads a simple life.
She prays in the mornings and listens to Haitian radio. Nelson “Piman Bouk” Voltaire, a fiery radio personality who ends each segment with “Piman Bouk power!,” is her favorite.
Every Sunday she attends services at the Tabernacle of Bethlehem in Opa-locka.
“I have to go to church. I love God,” Victor said.
Pierre-Louis said he always considered Victor a strong woman with an unwavering will. He plans to start a foundation in Victor’s name.
“I want to continue her legacy. Whatever your age, you have the right to vote in this country,” he said.
Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election, Victor said she doesn’t know whether she will be alive, but she has one wish: Shorter voting lines.
“I hope what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she said. “I hope those who a re here won’t be discouraged to vote.”
Miami Herald Staff Writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.