On this day in 1915, Amy Perkins was born in what was then called Bower Hill, Pennsylvania.
A century later, Perkins celebrates her 100th birthday. To honor the occasion, Bridgeville Mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. issued a proclamation that today is Amy Perkins Day in the borough.
Perkins, known as “Miss Amy” to neighbors, friends, and fellow community members, was born to Leroy and Viola Jones Purnell two years before the U.S. entered World War I.
In 1918, her father left to fight in “The Great War” and never returned. In 1927, her mother, Viola, would travel to England as a “Gold Star Widow” to attend a ceremony honoring her husband’s ultimate sacrifice. Her journey was funded by local physician for whom Amy’s mother had worked for many years.
“Miss Amy” graduated from Bridgeville High School in 1934. Subsequently, she left home to further her education at Cheyney State Teachers College (now Cheyney University of Pennsylvania). She had hoped to study nursing; however, at that time, African-Americans were not welcomed into this field. In fact, during this period in U.S. history, it was unusual for African-Americans – especially women – to pursue education beyond secondary school.
Nonetheless, thanks to grant funding received based upon her father’s military service, “Miss Amy” spent two years studying home economics at Cheyney, which is recognized as the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning for blacks.
Soon after graduating and returning to Bridgeville, Amy met Morris Perkins, Jr. – fondly called “Buster” — and, on August 26, 1937, they were married. They had three children: Elaine, Gail, and Gregory Perkins.
While raising her family, “Miss Amy” also began a career in the medical field. She was hired by John J. Kane Hospital in Scott Township, where she was responsible for administering medications to patients.
From there, she became an assistant physical therapist, a position she kept until 1978, when she resigned to provide care for her ailing mother. Amy and Buster, along with their three children, regularly attended First Baptist Church of Bridgeville. Both she and her husband served on the deacon board. Even after Morris’ death in 1999, she has continued to serve as Deaconess and Missionary, while also being honored as “Church Mother.”
Friends still describe Amy as humble — she’s the person who is always quietly helping others. As a mother, Amy remains proud of her adult children and their families:
Elaine (Fred) Melvin lives in Atlanta, GA, after retiring from teaching elementary, secondary, and college level students in a number of U.S. cities;
Gail Taylor resides in Pittsburgh and works in histology and pathology at area UPMC hospitals;
Gregory (Gloria) Perkins, served in Vietnam before opening his own construction business. Gregory is also a minister. Amy’s six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren adore their “Grandma.” Over the weekend the family had a party for Amy at the Cuddy Fire Department banquet hall.
And, as for her secret to longevity, Amy Perkins readily points to her Christian faith.