Dora Garner, left, applauds as her mom Lillian Russell-Jones is introduced at a special program at St. Paul Baptist Church.
For Lillian Corbitt Russell-Jones, the secret to a long life is free and simple.
"I just treat everyone right with a smile," she said - smiling, of course - after celebrating her 100th birthday during a special ceremony at St. Paul's Baptist Church on North Detroit Avenue last Sunday.
The 45-minute ceremony, held after church services, included singing, poetic expressions, dancing, an instrumental song, and a blessing before dinner was served in the church's overflow room and dining hall.
"It was beautiful, wasn't it?" Mrs. Russell-Jones said after the ceremony.
About 150 friends and family members braved the frigid weather to help Mrs. Russell-Jones celebrate her birthday. Guests included family members from New Albany, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Triangle, Va.; Milwaukee; Nashville; Memphis, and New Albany, Miss.
The ceremony kicked off with everyone in the church giving Mrs. Russell-Jones a standing ovation.
"Our honoree, of course, may be called one of the finest examples of womanhood," said the Rev. James Willis, Sr., who gave her a plaque on behalf of St. Paul's Church. "You are not only an inspiration to others, you are an inspiration to me too."
Toledo City Councilman Wilma Brown was in attendance to deliver a resolution that council had passed recognizing Mrs. Russell-Jones.
"She's been a blessing and an asset over the decades to the Toledo community," Ms. Brown read from the framed resolution she gave to Mrs. Russell-Jones. "She is well-respected and recognized as a vivacious woman and an outstanding citizen."
Even Mrs. Russell-Jones' neighbor, the Rev. Claude Russell, was in attendance to share some kind words about the woman he has known for two decades.
"She's beautiful in more ways than one," Mr. Russell said. "She smiles at everyone. I feel better every time I see her."
Mrs. Russell-Jones was born on Feb. 7, 1907, in Greenwood, Miss., and had five brothers and sisters, said her daughter, Dora Garner, 78, with whom Mrs. Russell-Jones lives on Marthal Road in west Toledo.
After marrying James Leslie Russell when she was 16, Mrs. Russell-Jones followed him to Toledo in 1934 because they were determined to make a better life for themselves and their three daughters, Mrs. Garner said.
Mrs. Russell-Jones worked at the former Doehler-Jarvis Inc. foundry and casting plant and as a domestic in many homes in the Old Orchard area until 1942.
It was then that her husband opened Russell Cleaners on Washington Street in Toledo, and she learned how to sew and press so she could work there.
"My mother was right by his side all the while," Mrs. Garner said.
The dry cleaners moved from the original location to Nebraska Avenue and stayed open until the property was purchased by the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Later the Russells opened another dry cleaning shop on Detroit Avenue, then moved to another location on Nebraska Avenue.
After Mr. Russell died in 1972, Mrs. Russell-Jones and her son-in-law, Harold Garner, kept the cleaning store open until 1979, when the corner was purchased by the city of Toledo, Mrs. Garner said.
Four years into her retirement, she married John Quincy Jones in 1983. Though she is now his widow, she gained three stepchildren. She also has six grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and five great-great-grandchildren.
After the ceremony, Mrs. Russell-Jones enjoyed a birthday cake that had her photograph on it and the words "On this day, we honor our queen."