Lucy Merrick, an activist for senior-citizen rights, was joined by a slew of family members and friends as she celebrated her 100th birthday at Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley retirement community in Germantown on Saturday.
Born in 1912, when gas was seven cents a gallon and the average salary was $750 dollars per year, Merrick has seen far more change throughout her life than most people alive today.
She was born before desegregation and before women had the right to vote. Nevertheless, when asked how it felt to turn 100, Merrick just smiled.
“It doesn’t feel much different than anything else,” she said.
Lucy was born at home in Philadelphia to Thomas and Margaret Drain. The youngest of five girls, she attended Girls High before transferring to Overbrook High School where she ran track.
After marrying David W. Merrick Sr., the couple had four children. Constance, David, Jeanne and Wanda were all at the party.
Merrick recalled that she “didn’t go to work until the eldest one went to school. Then, I worked at night as a nurse at the old Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.”
The birth of an activist
After retiring in 1977, Merrick began a second career as an activist for senior citizens.
First, she took a course in public speaking. Then, she joined Action Alliance for Senior Citizens.
With that organization, she fought to improve the lives of senior citizens by speaking out against rate increases at PECO, Philadelphia Gas Works, Philadelphia Water Department and SEPTA.
Among other things, Merrick also joined Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), numerous guilds and remained an active member of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.
Scenes from the celebration
More than 25 family members, along with numerous friends and residents of Wesley, attended Saturday’s party, to which Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass sent a representative with a citation from the city.
Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren paid tribute with poetry readings and musical performances.
One grandson, Paul Merrick, read a brief history of 1912, with help from the woman born that year.
Sitting at the front of the room, the guest of honor greeted an ongoing procession of friends with a vibrant spirit.
“I just can’t keep up with her,” her son David said. “Her mind is still very sharp.”