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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

WWII Veteran And West Side Resident Fannie Farmer Celebrates 100th Birthday

Friends, family and fellow veterans turned out for Fannie Farmer's 100th birthday celebration in October.

Fannie Farmer served in the Women's Army Corps during World War II before opening up her own beauty salon.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — At 100 years old, World War II veteran Fannie Farmer still makes herself breakfast daily before sitting down with the newspaper.

That’s part of Farmer’s secret to a long life, she said.

“It’s just keeping a schedule,” Farmer told doctors when asked about her secret to a long and healthy life.

A nearly lifelong Chicago resident, Farmer celebrated her milestone birthday in October among family, friends and community members at the Nichols Tower, 906 S. Homan Ave.

One of nine children, Farmer’s 85- and 91-year-old siblings were there to mark the occasion. Her three grandsons, five great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren also helped celebrate, joined by nieces and nephews who made the trip from California, Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia and New Jersey. Other local veterans also turned out for cake, singing and the chance to speak with Farmer.

Yvonne Shields, Farmer’s only child, said her mother is a “woman ahead of her time.”

“She’s been a hardworking woman all of her life, blazing her own path,” Shields said.

A Mississippi native, Farmer moved to Chicago with her family when she was 6 years old. The family settled in the old Maxwell Street area, and Farmer has called the West Side home since then.

During World War II, Farmer joined the Women’s Army Corps and served as a chauffeur and typist on the army’s Fort Benning, Georgia, base. After an honorable discharge, Farmer attended the Madam C.J. Walker College of Beauty Culture, named for the pioneering Black entrepreneur who launched a line of hair products for Black women.

After graduating from the college, Farmer opened her own salon in the early ’50s, calling it Just Fannie’s Beauty Shop. She also rented bicycles out of her storefront near Wood Street and Roosevelt Road.

Along with stints working at Mount Sinai and Stroger hospitals, Farmer was a medical transcriber at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Even after she retired, Farmer was drawn to supporting veterans, Shields said.

As a retiree, Farmer took up a volunteer position at the information desk for the Jesse Brown center four blocks from her home, working regularly until she was about 90 years old, Shields said.

To honor Farmer’s 1,800 hours of volunteer work, a Jesse Brown representative attended her 100th birthday, along with an honor guard from National Women Veterans United.

“They wanted to recognize her, and their saying was that they were standing on her shoulders,” Shields said.

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