Viola Lampkin Brown, Berryville’s deeply loved and newest centenarian, was born on October 4, 1911. On Saturday hundreds of Ms. Viola’s friends, family and loved joined together to celebrate her life and birthday and to thank her for the love and kindness that she has so freely offered to friends and strangers alike during a lifetime spent in Clarke County. But as so often has been the case throughout her life, on Saturday Mrs. Brown was still putting others before herself even on her most special birthday yet so far.
“I am what I am because of all of these people around me” Ms. Viola said amongst hundreds of well-wishers gathered at the Enders Fire Hall in Berryville, Virginia. “I’m just so thankful for the all of the people in my life. They have all helped make me the person that I am and I thank God for each and every one of them.”
Praise and song poured forth for Ms. Viola Lampkin Brown for much of the afternoon. Family members extolled her ability to create mouth-watering recipes that have elevated her to a status of “culinary queen” in Clarke County. Others told of how her love and guidance were always there to support them, in both good times and difficult times, and the importance of seeing her as an ever dependable role model.
But the common theme for everyone who spoke about Ms. Viola never wavered; her faith in God and her service to her beloved Zion Baptist Church on Josephine Street.
Of the many tributes to Ms. Viola, and there were many, many tributes spoken on Saturday afternoon, perhaps the most moving came from her grandson-in-law Howard White.
“On your birthday you usually receive a gift” White told the audience. “But today all of you are receiving a gift instead. That gift is what this woman has demonstrated throughout her entire life. Her life has shown that if you put a little love into everything that you do you’ll get a lot of love back in return. She is one of the kindest people in the entire world.”
While many of those who attended Saturday’s birthday celebration have a personal connection to Ms. Viola, birthday wishes poured in from others as well including the President and Mrs. Barach Obama, the Town of Berryville as well as from local celebrity weather forecaster Willard Scott.
“You have witnessed many great milestones in our Nation’s history and your life represents an important part of the American story” said a letter signed by Barach and Michelle Obama.
Mayor Wilson Kirby spoke Ms. Viola’s lifetime commitment to the Berryville Community and presented her with framed document from the Berryville Town Council proclaiming October 4, 2011 as “Viola Brown Centennial Celebration Day”.
“God has given you many years on earth” Willard Scott said in his letter to Ms. Brown. “May he continue to bless you and keep you in his loving care.”
Ms. Viola was joined on Saturday by her son, Shelby Louis Roberts Sr., and daughter Vonceil Lampkin Hill of Berryville and many of her eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Ms. Viola’s special daughters, Barbara Clagett and Dorothy Roberts were also in attendance.
Video of Mayor Kirby’s tribute to Ms. Viola can be viewed here: