By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
She has worn many hats over the course of her life and Dr. Bernyse Anderson Hunter just put on yet another one: a party hat.
Dr. Hunter celebrated her 109th birthday last week, surrounded by loved ones who know that every birthday at this stage is a milestone.
“We love her and we just celebrate that she’s still here with us,” said her great-niece Del Sayles-Owens.
The party was held at the Village at Heritage Park, the assisted living home where Dr. Hunter has resided since 2017.
She was born in Neame, Louisiana, in 1913. She became a wife and mother and started a lifelong commitment to helping others. In 1943, she opened the first Black-owned beauty shop in Santa Monica. She and her late husband, Lincoln “Mike” Hunter became state-sanctioned home child care providers in 1966. They operated for 10 years.
Dr. Hunter went from early childhood development to education, receiving a bachelor’s from USC in 1975 and a master’s in 1978. She earned a myriad of educational credentials and taught all levels of education throughout her career. Dr. Hunter retired from teaching at the age of 72. She co-founded the Semper Fidelis Women’s Club in Sun Village and provided college scholarships to students graduating from area high schools. She initiated a head-start program in Sun Village in 1968 and was a social worker for the head-start foundation for 10 years.
At 91, she became “Dr.” Hunter upon receiving a doctorate in holistic nutrition; she is a doctor of natural health. Armed with the degree and the wisdom of the ages, she practiced and taught the “old” remedies that her mother, grandmother, aunts, and other African American wise-women have shared with her.
She also helped other elders stay healthy as they “got up there in age.” She led a reading group on holistic nutrition, iridology and reflexology, which met twice a month to discuss how they could improve their daily lives. Her doctoral dissertation, “Healthy Nutritional Tips For Living Longer,” was shared with party guests.
Although time has slowed her down considerably, Dr. Hunter’s relatives and her Fellowship Community Church family continue to celebrate her and her birthday.