PLAINFIELD, NJ — Bernice (James) Hawkins, who was born in Valdosta, GA on March 1, 1931, to the late Allen and Ethel James, is celebrating her 90th birthday. Long before she lived in Plainfield, Hawkins grew up on a farm where her chores included picking cotton, cropping tobacco by hand, churning butter, caring for chickens, digging for potatoes, picking blackberries and more. 

According to her daughter Delois “Dee" Dameron, Hawkins has several memories of being discriminated against during her time in school.  One such memory was when she and her siblings were walking to school, and a group of white boys on a bus spit on them and then mooned them.  However, this did not deter her and the others from going to school to get a better education.  Not allowed to ride the bus, they had to walk miles to school each day.

After graduating and seeking a better life, Hawkins relocated to Newark in 1952, where her first job was working in a cigar factory.  She lived with her brother and his wife until she met and married King Jefferson Hawkins, now deceased; they raised four boys and three girls together. She now has 10 grandchildren, great-grand children, and even has one great-great-grandchild.

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Hawkins was a stay-at-home mom for many years.  When she decided to enter the job market, she became a teacher’s aide in the Newark school system, and at New Jersey Training School helping handicapped children.

She and her family moved to Plainfield in 1972.  Hawkins was thrilled to live in the Queen City because of its beauty, the school system, shopping, and more.  Being a homeowner in a nice neighborhood with manicured lawns were all the rage then.  She eventually went to work at Thermasystems, and later, Markey Handbags.

Over the years Hawkins involved herself in volunteering and community work, always willing to be of service to others.  Now the matriarch of her family, she is affectionately known as "The Queen.”  She still loves to cook, taking her time with each meal; her signature dishes are macaroni and cheese, roast beef, candied “sweets” and collard greens.

Hawkins has fond memories of her life and always like to quote her father, who said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "Love one another.”  Her daughter said she is a prayer warrior and her favorite scripture is Psalm 121.

Happy Birthday, Bernice Hawkins!


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