Millions dream of becoming legends in their own times; Weed’s Emily Hilliard has become one.

Millions dream of becoming legends in their own times; Weed’s Emily Hilliard has become one.

To commemorate Hilliard’s 102nd birthday, the city of Weed has decreed that May 17, 2011 be observed as Emily Hilliard Day.

“Isn’t that wonderful!” Hilliard said on May 16, when she received the official proclamation from Dave Pearce, Weed’s Mayor, and Debi Salvestrin, secretary to the Weed City Council.

Hilliard was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, but followed her husband to Weed in 1943 when he got a job with the Long Bell Lumber Company. “Weed hasn’t changed much since I came out here,” Hilliard reminisced.

“I’ve got good neighbors and friends, white and black; I love this town,” she smiled.

Hilliard was married to her husband, Grover, for nearly 70 years and has one daughter, Mary Hilliard Harrison, who is now 72 years old. Hilliard was the oldest of 12 children; she is the last living member of her original family.

“But I’m not alone,” Hilliard said. “I have over a hundred nieces and nephews; they’re all precious to me, and I love them all equally,” she smiled.  “But, Evelyn is very special to me,” she winked. “She’s just like a daughter to me, right under my baby Mary.”

Hilliard has several suggestions for those wanting to live a long and prosperous life. “I’ve worked hard all my life, and I think that’s the way to live a good life. In Mississippi, I plowed behind mules and horses. In Weed, I worked as a fry cook at the Savoy Hotel. I worked hard when I was at home too.”

“Take care of yourself,” she added. “Take care of your own business and not someone else’s. That’s what I’ve done and I’ll keep doing that as long as the good Lord lets me.”

“If you see someone’s in trouble, help them out.”

“Loving God, having faith in Him, and doing His will has kept me strong,” she said. Her love for gospel music by Mahalia Jackson and Al Green feeds her spirit. According to her daughter, Mary, and her special niece, Evelyn Brown Smith, Hilliard prays constantly. “The good Lord sustains her,” Smith said.

Hilliard’s favorite hobby was hemming the quilts for the Mt. Shasta Baptist Singing Choir. “Using her old pedal sewing machine, from sun-up to sundown, she hemmed the quilts for fundraisers,” Smith said. “She did a lot for Weed.”

“Until her arthritis stopped her, she pieced together quilts for all the nephews and nieces and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren for Christmases and birthdays,” Smith added.

“She treats all her people the same; she loves us all,” Smith smiled.

“She canned blackberry jelly and put up vegetables for the winter,” her daughter remembered. “She preserved pears that she picked from our back yard. She loved eating them with biscuits. And she made the best collards with salt pork and corn bread!”

Hilliard supported her daughter Mary in all her endeavors. “In high school, I had the choice between taking band or sewing. Well, I wasn’t going to sew, so I took band and learned to play the saxophone. Mom came to our concerts and to our football and basketball games because we were a marching band. And I played sports; she was always there. We had a lot of fun.”

Now, Hilliard doesn’t quilt or get out very often. “She naps every day,” Hilliard Harrison said. “Sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes two hours. She’ll go out on the porch and sit out there. Then she’ll walk inside and take a nap. Then she’ll do something else and take a nap. She’s happy and that’s what counts.”

“We want her to do what she wants to do to be happy,” Smith agreed. “We take good care of her; she’s a very dear woman and we love her very much.”

Local physician Sam Williams provides care for Hilliard, too. “He comes to the house,” Smith said. “And he keeps her healthy. She cares for him and his family. Along with God, Dr. Williams is her keeper. We all appreciate that.”

On Tuesday family and friends planned to gather to celebrate Hilliard’s birthday. “It will be a very special event for all of us,” Smith said. “We’re just so proud of her and so thankful that Weed recognized her. The Proclamation means the world to her and to us.”

“Her birthday is always very important to us, and we always have a great party to celebrate,” Smith added. “Now it will be important to everyone in Weed.”

“We’re very grateful for that, and very proud,” daughter Hilliard Harrison said.

“She gave everything to us, and now it’s our turn to give back,” special niece Smith smiled. “Emily Hilliard is really a legend – she’s an inspiration to us all.”