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Local celebrates 104th birthday

One Carriere woman celebrated 104 years of life on this earth Wednesday with a drive-thru birthday party.

Connie Sierra’s family and friends did not want her to turn 104 without some sort of celebration, but due to concerns from COVID-19 they were forced to get creative and hold an outdoor celebration where friends and family could stop by and wish her well.

“I think I’ve never in my life thought I’d live to be 104, but thank God,” said Sierra. “I feel beautiful. I’ll tell you, I’ve just had a good life. Four beautiful children that really care for me and I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I have a wonderful life. I’m enjoying it and I plan on living another year.”

Born in 1916, Sierra was raised in Chalmette, La. and moved to Pearl River County after Hurricane Katrina when she was 91. She quickly found new church groups and card groups to join, said Sierra’s youngest daughter 74-year-old Sundra Cruthirds.

“She’s amazing,” said Cruthirds. “She went to culinary school and became a mentor for the prisoners at Jackson barrack. She was in catering. She got a cosmetology license, and she used to do hair.”

There were 280 people at Sierra’s one-hundredth birthday party, but Wednesday’s celebration was much smaller and included social distancing and face masks. Some attendees planned to stay in their cars and one of Sierra’s great-grandchildren brought a sign to wish her well from a distance.

“We all hope that we live the kind of life she’s led, as long and as fulfilling,” said Cruthirds.

Every week Sierra bakes bread for her family, and she’s still teaching recipes to her friends.

“I’ve been making bread since (I was) 12-years-old and I make bread at least once a week and I enjoy doing it. I still make my own macaroni, my own ricotta cheese. I love doing things like that, and making meatballs with my grandson,” said Sierra.

Bonnie Griffin is one of many friends who was excited to toast Sierra on her birthday, from a distance. Before the pandemic, Griffin played cards with Sierra.

“Since COVID, she calls me almost every day because she wants to start playing cards so bad,” said Griffin.

“Now she calls me, and at the age of 72, I am learning how to make a gravy. She is a true Italian and taught me how to make a true red gravy. I am so glad this lady has come across my path in life”

Sierra has four children, nine grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and four step-great grandchildren.

Cruthirds said her mother has always shared sage, sometimes jovial, advice with her children, such as “never hang around with old people and never talk about illness and make sure you eat lots of greens and drink wine everyday.”