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10 local centenarians share their secrets to a long life

Ten African-American women in the Buffalo Niagara region contributed their unique stories to “The Centenarians: We Have a Story to Tell,” a living history project. All have lived at least 100 years.

Here, meet the 10 women and see to what they credit their long, full lives.

[Centenarians share their stories of faith, humor and grit]

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At left, Irene Breckenridge who spent her life surrounded by family. At right, Artie Brown, who sewed made-to-order dresses.

At left, Irene Breckenridge, who has spent her life surrounded by family. At right, Artie Brown, who sewed made-to-order dresses.

Irene Breckenridge, 102

Born March 29, 1914, in Chaplain, Ky., Breckenridge has spent her life shaping the lives of children and raising generations of grandchildren. Her secrets for a long life are being grateful every day, her love of family and her spiritual bond.

Artie Brown, 101

Born in Fort Gaines, Ga., on December 24, 1914, Brown has used her sewing skills to create Fashion Frocks, dresses that were made to order. Brown's secrets for a long life are to "keep breathing, think positive about things and thank God for everything."

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At left, Thelma Onelia Arrington Hickmon worked as a shoe salesperson. At right, Amanda Pugh Jackson has lived around the United States.

At left, Thelma Onelia Arrington Hickmon worked as a shoe salesperson. At right, Amanda Pugh Jackson has lived around the United States.

Thelma Onelia Arrington Hickmon, 99

Born in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 2, 1916, one of her career experiences was as a shoe salesperson in an upscale department store and her entrepreneurial spirit won her several awards. Hickmon's secrets for a long life are believing in God, a loving family, praying each day and staying healthy.

Amanda Pugh Jackson, 102

Born on Aug. 6, 1913, in Jackson, Ala., Jackson has lived in six other states: Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi and New York. Jackson's secret to a long life is to "put God first, and in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path."

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At left, Mamie Lang Kirkland is one of the longest-living Buffalonians. At right, Pearl Lewis is a former jewelry salesperson.

At left, Mamie Lang Kirkland, at 107, is one of the longest-living Buffalonians. At right, Pearl Lewis is a former jewelry salesperson.

Mamie Lang Kirkland, 107

Both in the southeastern Mississippi town of Ellisville on Sept. 3, 1908, Kirkland is one of the longest-living residents of the Buffalo community. Kirkland left her birthplace as a child and returned 100 years later. She recently reminded her family of her recent fame. Her secrets to a long life are her family bonds and her "strong relationship with God."

Pearl Lewis, 104

Born on Oct. 3, 1911, in Elba, Ala., Lewis worked as a saleswoman at Reeds in Niagara Falls. She actually sold her engagement ring to her fiancee at the time. Lewis' secrets to a long life are to embrace your faith, eat healthy  "grow your own vegetables if you can" -- and to enjoy each day, have at least one "night cap."

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At left, Lottie Bell Williams designed hats and purses. At right, Margaret (Margie) M. Richardson couldn't stay away from Buffalo.

At left, Lottie Bell Williams designed hats and purses. At right, Margaret (Margie) M. Richardson couldn't stay away from Buffalo.

Lottie Bell Williams, 102

Born in Lugoff, S.C., on March 19, 1914, Williams created hats and purses and sold them in a variety of venues. Her secret to a long life is to have inner peace. "I just didn't let anything bother me," she said.

Margaret (Margie) M. Richardson, 100

Born in Manning, S.C., in Clarendon County, on June 26, 1916, Richardson is a two-time resident who worked in Buffalo in the 1940s and returned here in 1999. Richardson's secrets to a long life are "keep on living, stay active and treat others as you would have them treat you."

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At left, Mary Lee Jones Reid stays close to her church family. At right, Brunette Washington sold women's undergarments door to door.

At left, Mary Lee Jones Reid stays close to her church family. At right, Brunette Washington sold women's undergarments door to door.

Mary Lee Jones Reid, 101

Born in a little town called Clyo, Ga., in Effingham County on Dec. 22, 1914, Reid said that it is early prayer service and her church family over the years that has prepared her for this moment. Reid's secrets to a long life are prayer, gratitude, family and friends.

Brunette Washington, 102

Born June 6, 1914, in Forkland, Ala., Washington worked for the Charis Company selling women's undergarments door to door. Washington's secrets to a long life are God and her philosophy: "Love everybody as God loves us, and if you have anything in your heart against somebody, ask him to remove it."

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