The 111-year-old woman who met former First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year, died in her sleep Wednesday night, a family spokesperson said.
Willie Mae Hardy, who also made headlines earlier this year for being the oldest living woman in Kirkwood, died at 10:30 p.m., according to Sunshine Lewis..
Born March 11, 1908, in Junction City in Talbot County, Hardy was the granddaughter of a slave and lived through 20 presidents — from Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump.
Hardy voted for the first black president Barack Obama when she was 100. She made headlines earlier this year when she met Michelle Obama at a signing for the first lady’s book “Becoming” in May.
“[Michelle Obama] was really amazed at how well she looked, how healthy she looked, and how she could still articulate and talk about things,” Hardy’s granddaughter and caretaker Veronica Edwards said earlier this year in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution profile. Before the meeting, the Obamas sent Hardy a birthday note in 2012.
Atlanta Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong called Hardy’s death “a sad and momentous event.” Archibong helped arrange Hardy’s meeting with Michelle Obama.
Archibong said she first met Hardy at the annual Living Legacy block party in Kirkwood.
“Although she was over 100 years of age at the time, she was lively and engaging,” Archibong said in an emailed statement. “Ms. Hardy came to symbolize courage and strength through her legacy of perseverance, love of family and of community. She will be missed, but not forgotten.”
The oldest of eight children, Hardy grew up on what was once a plantation. Her family lived on the property and worked the land, including harvesting crops, plowing the land, and weighing cotton.
“I did everything I could do,” Hardy said when asked about her time on the farm.
In the 1930s, Hardy met and married Frank Hardy. The couple was together until his death in 1979. At the age of 31 and with only a third-grade education, Hardy and her family moved to Atlanta in 1939 looking for what she called a better life.
Hardy, her husband and her only daughter, Cassie Edwards, settled in the area now known as the Old Fourth Ward.
Once here, Hardy worked for prominent Atlanta families as a housekeeper until the 1980s. In 1966, Hardy and her daughter moved to the Kirkwood home they shared until last July when Cassie died just four days shy of her 93rd birthday.
When she wasn’t working, Hardy was involved in her church, the historic Butler Street Baptist Church on Ralph McGill Boulevard in northeast Atlanta. She often told her children and grandchildren stories of seeing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during civil rights rallies held at the church.
Hardy received an outpouring of support from the community, including a free home makeover from Lowe’s Home Improvement. That upgrade to her Kirkwood home included air conditioning, something the home never had.
“She’s just happy and overwhelmed that the Lord sent someone by here to help out,” Edwards told the AJC at the time.
Funeral services have not been scheduled.
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