Sandy Springs woman celebrates 102nd birthday

Bernyce Stickle survived the Depression, was a U.S. Marine in World War II, raised a family and now is an inspiration to fellow Somerby Sandy Springs residents. (Maureen Markley)

Credit: Maureen Markley

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Bernyce Stickle survived the Depression, was a U.S. Marine in World War II, raised a family and now is an inspiration to fellow Somerby Sandy Springs residents. (Maureen Markley)

Credit: Maureen Markley

Credit: Maureen Markley

Bernyce Stickle keeps herself busy every day, whether it’s running a bridge club at Somerby Sandy Springs Senior Living, designing and crafting jewelry, taking part in a book club or helping to organize bingo games for residents.

She celebrated her 102nd birthday a few days early on Sept. 7 with the help of her fellow Somerby residents. She attributes her long life to staying active.

“Besides drinking a glass of wine every day… I just keep busy, that’s what it is,” Bernyce said.

Her daughter, Sherry Champliss, said she believes her mother’s life is defined by involvement, whether it was the U.S. Marines, in the events she and her husband managed and attended, or the Georgia Pilot Club, for which she became its governor.

One of her greatest joys in life is being of service regardless of what kind of group it is, including the people at Somerby, Champliss said.

“She actually learned bridge in her 90s. She had never played bridge before,” she said.

Somerby brought in a bridge instructor for a few visits, but Stickler made sure she learned how to play and then “corralled everyone else” to play. Now she schedules residents for games, which Somerby Resident Council President Maureen Markley said is a difficult task with the changing schedules of all the players. She introduced a variety of bingo games and still picks out which games and in what order they will be played.

She took up quilting in her 70s and made a quilt pattern called the Stickle, named after her father. Each square is a different fabric with a different color, with more than 1,000 pieces – all done by hand. She also knits hats for babies in the hospital.

Many residents of Somerby have benefitted from another of her skills, which is handcrafting jewelry, and making necklaces and earrings.

“She makes a lot of them and she gives them to people. She’s one of our best designers for that,” Markley said.

But the biggest thing residents may get from her is inspiration, Markley said.

“The first word that popped into my head was hope. You know, when we first came to independent living, my husband was not in a good place, but Bernyce helped us recover and become involved in activities,” Cheryl Savris, past Somerby Resident Council president, said.

Somerby residents were asked to wear that jewelry for her party. And they were asked to present her with 102 small gifts and 102 birthday cards. They hope to have U.S. Marine Corps representation and will have all the veterans at Somerby line up to give her a salute.

Stickle’s parents were Norwegian immigrants who came to the United States, where they met. Her brother was born, and she followed two years later. Another brother, born after her, died in infancy, and she had a sister born two years after that.

They survived the Depression in part because her father had a farm.

“But I felt I needed to do something more important than what I was doing,” she said.

Stickle decided to volunteer with the U.S. Marine Corps, where she would meet her husband at a party in 1945.

Stickle and her husband were active church members in Albany and later Port St. Joe, raising money for the church, reaching out to the community with food and the other things that churches do in smaller towns.

She said her faith sustained her through her son’s death and her sister’s death. Both of Champliss’ parents had a wide array of friends locally and across the country and anyone connected with her Norwegian family.

“And of course, she has outlived almost everyone that she’s ever known,” her daughter said.

Credit: Rough Draft Atlanta

Credit: Rough Draft Atlanta


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