Verneda Elizabeth Breathett, who soon will turn 100, became the pianist at Golden Leaf Church when she was 16. (Courtesy photo)

Loved ones and friends will join the Golden Leaf Church family this month for a huge birthday bash for Mother Verneda Elizabeth Breathett, who turns 100.

On July 29, a catered banquet will honor the church’s oldest and “most famous” member.

Golden Leaf Church Pastor Vinvecca B. Gray (right) with “Mother” Verneda Elizabeth Breathett, who soon will turn 100 years old. (Courtesy photo)

“Mrs. Breathett became the pianist at this church when she was only 16,” said Golden Leaf Pastor Vinvecca B. Gray. “So many well-known people took music lessons under her. She taught piano and voice lessons to the late gospel recording artist and pastor Oris Mays. Also, local singer Deborah Manning Thomas, was taught by Mrs. Breathett.”

Breathett’s son, Archbishop Emeritus LeRoy Bailey Jr. of Bloomfield, Connecticut, said his mother’s people were always here in Shelby County.

“My mother’s family lived in Collierville, back when Collierville was still out in the country,” said Bailey. “There were eight children, four boys and four girls. Her parents were John Quincy Adams Campbell and Ida Bessie Blakely Campbell.”

Mother Breathett, affectionately is known as “Sweetie,” a nickname from her early years, always was writing plays and skits for the church youth to perform, said Bailey. She was an avid reader who carried a book everywhere she went.

“Mother loved books and reading and gaining more knowledge through reading,” said Bailey. “She passed a love for books and learning down to us, as well as other children. Mother had so many capacities. She was the pianist and the church secretary. She excelled in so many things.”

Mother Breathett pioneered drama and dance ministries long before it was popular to do so.

Breathett began playing the piano at age 9, only a few years before she became the pianist at Golden Leaf, located in North Memphis’s Hollywood community.

Not only was Mother Breathett playing piano at other churches throughout the city, she was a musical fixture at National Baptist Congress and Conventions for many years.

Over the years, Breathett has owned a number of successful businesses, including Breathett Funeral Home in Bartlett, a floral shop, wedding décor enterprise, a catering company, and Breathett Service Station.

Besides her son, Bailey, Mother Breathett has a daughter, Yvonne Marie Holt.

“Mrs. Breathett taught in our Vacation Bible School three years ago when she was 97,” said Rev. Gray. she still comes to church every Sunday. Really, she is a lifelong member at this church. We are looking forward to a wonderful time in the Lord on the 29th.”

Mother Breathett has been celebrating her birthday all month. She was born on July 15, 1922. She turns 100 on Friday (July 15).

According to Bailey, Mrs. Breathett enjoys watching game shows on television. 

“Oh, and mother still loves to entertain,” said Bailey. “She loves having company because she has always loved to receive company in her home. Mother has always had the spirit of hospitality and being kind. She was always a wonderful example of what a Christian should be.”