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South Side woman celebrates 100th birthday: ‘I’m glad I made it’

Groziela Clark “has shown us all how to live life to the fullest,” said Sean Howard of Sweet Holy Spirit Church; Clark has been a member more than 25 years.

Groziela Clark
Groziela Clark, a longtime member of Sweet Holy Spirit Church, turned 100 on Monday. She gathered with friends to celebrate on Tuesday at Pearl’s Place in Bronzeville.
Cindy Hernandez | Chicago Sun-Times

Groziela Clark made it to 100, but she can’t tell you how to do the same.

“I don’t know. I went around and did a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to, but the thing is I made it and I appreciate it. I’m glad I made it,” Clark said Tuesday, surrounded by friends who gathered to celebrate her milestone at a Bronzeville restaurant.

“I was like any other person. I would go out. I’d drink. I’d have me a ball. I’d go to dances. I did the same things that other young people did but after I got older I knew it wasn’t helping me. I just had to stop.”

Her birthday was Monday. She celebrated with family on that day before being feted by church members and others on Tuesday at Pearl’s Place, 3901 S. Michigan Ave.

Clark was born in 1919 in Memphis and moved to Chicago when she was 2 years old. She has lived on the South Side her entire life and has been a member of Sweet Holy Spirit Church for more than 25 years.

At age 12, Clark went to work, taking a dishwasher job at the Edgewater Beach hotel, which was demolished in 1971.

Her life demonstrates the value of work, said Rev. Larry Trotter, senior pastor of the church.

Clark has been a mentor to others for decades and has people still seeking her guidance.

“Longevity has its measures but Mother Clark has shown us all how to live life to the fullest,” said Sean Howard, communications director of Sweet Holy Spirit Church.

“She is a symbol of remembrance. She lived through many historical events and she often talks about how far African Americans have progressed over the years.”

Groziela Clark
Groziela Clark blew out the candles on Tuesday to celebrate her 100th birthday at Pearl’s Place, 3901 S. Michigan Ave.
Cindy Hernandez/Chicago Sun-Times

After retiring at 65 from her final job, as a school crossing guard, Clark continued working for Sweet Holy Spirit Church. She spent most of her time mentoring young women, preparing communion and doing hospital visits.

“She enjoys being the matriarch of our church. Women in their seventies and eighties still look to her as a mentor. She has been that rock for many people,” Howard said.

Clark has a reserved seat in the second row, so she’s been right behind many local and national leaders who have attended services — meeting President Barack Obama, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others.

Clark has outlived three husbands and one of her two daughters.

“Mother Clark is a positive person but she has expressed some sorrow,” Howard said.

“She has lost a lot of people that she was close to,” he added, “but she still attends every funeral.”

Clark’s only advice is to treat others how they would like to be treated.

“A lot of them, the first thing they want to do, is for self-preservation. That’s not my method at all. I want to live and I want the other fellow to live too,” Clark said.