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The oldest living female Community member Bernice Phillips celebrated her 99th birthday with hundreds of guests at the Talking Stick Resort Grand Ballroom on November 18.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community's Oldest Living Female Celebrates 99th Birthday

On November 7, Salt River’s oldest living female, Bernice Perkins Phillips, turned 99 years old. Her family celebrated this milestone on Saturday, November 18, as they presented a large birthday party for over 300 guests at the Talking Stick Resort Grand Ballroom.

What is Bernice’s secret to reaching her 99th birthday, you may wonder? She said, “Good living, and a drug- and alcohol-free life.”

The celebration was co-hosted by Bernice’s grandson and caregiver, Daniel “Pie” Wood, and her daughter Barbara Wood. The ballroom was decorated in Bernice’s favorite color, purple. The theme, “99 & Still Sparkling,” was reflected throughout the room with lit-up vases of orchids and acrylic diamonds scattered around the centerpieces. A table was filled with large photos of Bernice, which chronicled her 99 years, from age 1 to the present day.

Guests were treated to performances by the SRPMIC Traditional Dancers, led by head singer Council member Ricardo Leonard; the Salt River Senior Steppers, led by choreographer Roberta Johnston; Birds Singing and Dancing By the River, led by Lynwood Vest; and a special performance by Phoenix Entertainer of the Year FI Té the Diamond.

Guests were given a glimpse of Bernice's life, from age one to 99 years old.
The buffet-style dinner featured roasted turkey, salmon, grilled sirloin steaks and side dishes. Bernice was presented with a personal birthday cake by the catering captain, Jeffery McCormick. Bernice blushed as everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and waited for her to make a wish and blow out her candles. While the cakes and pies were being cut and served, Barbara introduced Andrea and the Gemini Band, and everyone danced the night away to Latin, Cumbia, and R&B cover songs.

Bernice enjoyed the celebration and will always cherish the photo scrapbook made that night by photographer Michael Schaaf. It captured most of her seven children, 21 grandchildren, 54 great-grandchildren and 47 great-great-grandchildren.

Over 300 guests were invited to Bernice's 99th birthday celebration.
As part of Bernice’s lifelong generosity, in lieu of gifts, her guests were asked to donate to Bernice’s charitable foundations, which include Salt River Presbyterian Church and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Pie Wood said it was a daunting “labor of love” to plan this party for his grandmother Bernice. He would like to give special thanks to Talking Stick Resort CEO Dennis Leong, catering sales manager Pearleen Tablado, and Casino board member Royce Manuel for all their help.

The family also thanks everyone who came to celebrate with Bernice, those who could not make it and wished her well, and the staff of Talking Stick Resort.

Guests enjoyed musical entertainment throughout the night.
Photos submitted by Daniel Wood

AAN Published an article on Bernice Phillips on February 16, 2017. This can be found in the archives section on the AAN website.