Essie was born in Georgia in 1915 but lived in Raleigh for much of her life. She worked for the State of North Carolina for 31 years before retiring in 1976.
Essie outlived her husband of 50 years, Leonard Whitaker, Sr., and their two children. Today, she still enjoys her five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Staff at Hillcrest say she is fondly called "Grandma Essie" by everyone and that she loves dessert, which she still makes by herself.
Essie said she has loved witnessing a century of American history, including the election of an African American president. She remembers having no electricity, watching the first time a man walked on the moon and World War I.
Happy birthday, Miss Essie!