March 2018

January 17th was Pearl Richards birthday.

This may seem unimportant to some, but it is important for Willoughby. Pearl was 100 years old the first of the year and she and her family represent the stories of so many of us who came to our city, raised families and over the years created the rich tapestry we call Willoughby.

Pearl has lived through the terms of 13 presidents and 8 mayors (including me). She was born at the end of one world war and lived through another. Her family endured the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Pearl has experienced the invention of television, mobile phones, computers, social media and fake news. Through this, Pearl has maintained the grace and wisdom that 100 years bestow on people. She is alert, self sufficient and happiest in the company of her family of three children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Moving to Willoughby from Georgia through Cleveland in the late 1940’s, Pearl was not one to take a decision as to where to raise a family lightly. She researched many communities before deciding to move to our City. A few years later Pearl and her husband built a new home. One of her daughters remembers getting “dressed-up” to go to the bank and meet with the bank president (who was also the mayor) for a loan. With a growing family and limited budget, they couldn’t afford to finish the interior or a heating system the first winter. Pearl speaks of this not with contempt, but with pride. She is also proud that her children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren attended and attend Willoughby schools. Pearl represents what thousands of young couples before and after yearn; a great community to build a home and a family. As Pearl’s daughter stated “Living in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors, and being a wonderful neighbor herself, has enriched her life and probably added years to her life.”

Today, Pearl stays active with gardening and quilt-making. She has given away over 90 quilts to families and missions.

Pearl Richards’ birthday is important. It is a home-grown story of a woman and her family, their devotion to each other and the community in which they live. It is a story that we want to see recreated in the coming years, with new young families moving to our City, becoming established community members, and raising their children and grandchildren.

Thank you Pearl and Happy Birthday. I look forward to seeing you again next year on January 17.