Written by Linda Flake
Brightview Woodbury Lake resident Mary Flake Liles, affectionately known as Sime, celebrates her 100th birthday on July 9, 2021. The oldest of four children, she was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina, to Erie Louis Flake, an auto mechanic at Ford Motor Company, and Daisy Graham Flake, a school teacher. Sime attended public schools in Wadesboro and had one year of college credits when she graduated from high school. She graduated with honors from Winston-Salem Teachers College with a B.S. in Education in May 1943.
Sime moved to Washington, D.C., in 1945, after marrying her husband of 41 years, Roscoe Liles, a pharmacist at D.C. General. She spent her career in public service, working at the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Commerce, the National Library of Medicine, D.C. General Hospital and the Federal Drug Administration. Sime retired from the FDA in 1977 as Chief Reference Librarian. She was one of the first African American librarians at the National Library of Medicine and the first African American to work the front desk. Her photo as a young woman is on display on a wall of the U.S. Health and Human Services building.
After retirement, Sime became more focused on the arts and created and sold gemstone jewelry and greeting cards. She also touched thousands of people’s hearts at birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions with her beautiful, custom-made cards that she hand-painted and designed using meaningful expressions written in calligraphy.
Since history and geography were her favorite subjects in school, Sime was determined to travel, see the world, and enjoy the cultures of foreign countries and other areas of the United States. She has visited beautiful old Southern cities, including Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans, rode cable cars in San Francisco, and sailed the Mississippi River. She has visited the pyramids in Egypt and Mexico and traveled to Turkey, Italy, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Spain, and Venezuela.
Sime has been a member of the Presbyterian Church all of her life and joined Sargent Memorial Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., in 1945 and remains a member there. She relocated to New Jersey in 2018, when she could no longer live alone. Once she moved to New Jersey, she changed her voter registration and voted in the Senate and Congressional races for the first time in her life.
Sime never had children of her own but is the matriarch of the Flake Family and has nurtured all of her nieces and nephews. The family has four living generations, and she is the eldest. Sime has had an interesting life, has seen many things, and shares many stories.
“The kind of woman I’d like to be is spiritual and God-loving,” Sime said. “I would like to combine the image of a free, slightly mischievous, modern woman with that of a traditional, elegant woman with classical femininity. I would like to be loved and protected yet intelligent with a certain independence. I would like to be loving, caring, trusting, discriminate, sensitive, honest, a good communicator, and able to devise my own limits.”
Aunt Sime is all of that and more – happy birthday!
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