Community leader celebrates 100th birthday

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Friends, family and well-wishers gathered at the Greater Open Door Baptist Church to celebrate the birthday of one of its founders this afternoon.

This wasn’t just any birthday celebration. Church founder Jeanette Lamar is celebrating 100 years of doing good.

“100 years of living, 100 years of giving, 100 years of serving and being a blessing to humanity,” Congressman Danny Davis said.

Many people who live as long as Jeanette Lamar don’t remember a lot about 10 decades of life, but Jeanette not only remembers, she can tell stories about her childhood and times before the Great Depression. She is also not shy about revealing the secret to longevity.

“Trust in God, good living – I never drank, I never smoked, good food and good treatment,” said Jeanette.

One of 12 children raised in a proud southern family who owned their own farm, Jeanette learned at an early age the importance of education.

Jeanette and her husband William came to Chicago from Detroit in 1941. A few years later, she and a few close friends and family began the Greater Open Door Baptist Church.

“In 1948, we organized the Open door with the pastor and eight members,” Jeanette said.

Today, the church has grown to about 300 families, or close to 2,000 members.

In the late 50s and early 60s, she was also part of a group that fought to get Chicago Public Schools opened full time for black students because before that, black children only attended school part time.

Jeanette Lamar acknowledges that she has had a wonderful life, but don’t tell her she’s been lucky.

“I haven’t been lucky, I’ve been blessed,” Jeanette said.

And on her 100th birthday she received a card and proclamation from a very special friend.

“We are grateful for your contributions to the American story, and we wish you the best for the coming year – on behalf of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.”

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