Community Voices

111 years old: Supercentenarian gets her own day in Hialeah

Hialeah Councilman Carl Zogby presents Maude Harris a proclamation plaque Aug. 31 to recognize her 111th birthday two weeks earlier.
Hialeah Councilman Carl Zogby presents Maude Harris a proclamation plaque Aug. 31 to recognize her 111th birthday two weeks earlier. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Hialeah declared Aug. 15 “Maude Harris Day” — the day the supercentenarian turned 111 years old.

A birthday party was held Aug. 31 at the Epworth Village Retirement Community Room in Hialeah. The Mater Academy Glee Club sang for her, and there was a proclamation presentation by Hialeah Councilman Carl Zogby, who gave her a plaque on behalf of the mayor.

What are Maude’s thoughts about turning 111?

“I think I have lived so long because I was interested in this world,” she said in email. “Where we came from, where we’re going, and how we can affect a peaceful future. We need to learn to work together.”

She still gives back to the world. She took up knitting at age 93 and made baby beanies for the preemies born at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Maude also quilts and helps collect funds for the staff gratuity fund at her retirement community.

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Maude, not quite 2 years old, in Minnesota in 1909. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Maude was born in 1907 in a tiny town called Fertile, Minnesota, that her father helped to found, according to her daughter, Mary Ellen Harris-Gelberg, 76, of Miami Lakes.

Maude’s father John Alfred Juelson was from Norway; mother Elin Johnson in Sweden. Maude had four siblings: Bernice, Harman, Julie and Elaine.

During the Great Depression, Maude started out working as a teacher in the one-room schoolhouse for grades 1-8. She was Elaine’s teacher. One family story is that Elaine complained to their mother that Maude was a bossy teacher.

Their mother said, “At school, Maude is the boss.” When asked if Maude was the boss at home too, their mother made things plain. No, she said. “I’m the boss.”

When Maude visited her uncle in Portland, Oregon, in 1937 she met Guy Royal Harris at a dance. After a six-week whirlwind romance, they married and lived near Seattle in a town called Bothell, where Maude became the assistant librarian.

Twenty years later, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, and Maude began working at PK Smith office supplies. She was later hired by Haslam’s Book Store.

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Maude Harris celebrates her 111th birthday at a special party Aug. 31 at Epworth Village Retirement Community in Hialeah. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

A good gardener all her life, Maude volunteered at the Epworth Village Retirement Community greenhouse when she moved there.

Alejandra Ferrazza, activities director at Epworth Village, calls her an “amazing woman.”

“She is still very active, is totally alert and keeps on doing things that she really likes: quilting, reading and making jewelry. She also attends religious services every morning in our chapel,” Ferrazza said in email.

“God put us here for a purpose,” Maude said. “It was not to improve our own self, but to make a world that is fair and it’s livable for everyone. This means cooperation to improve our future so that it is successful for all.”

“We have to do our best to improve everyone’s life,” she said. “We need to have more tolerance for different opinions and treat others with respect.”

Vendors needed for artisan fair

Brockway Memorial Library will host its third annual Artisan Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 6, at 10021 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores, to raise funds for the library.

If you are interested in selling your homemade goods and wares, call the library at 305-758-8107 to register as a vendor. Space is limited, and there is a $40 fee to participate. Vendors keep all their profits.

Shoppers get in free and they will find crafts, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, greeting cards, ornaments, woodcrafts, and more one-of-a-kind handmade items and tasty treats from participating local artisans. ”Wagner, Hand and Pflug” will perform live music.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.
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