Eliza Brewer, one of the city’s most beloved citizens, was resplendent in a purple and silver suit and matching hat at her 90th birthday celebration Saturday at the Grapevine Convention Center that drew more than 200 well-wishers.
Brewer — a mother of nine, grandmother of 21, great-grandmother of 53 and great-great-grandmother of five — is regarded as the city’s most well known civic and church leader to represent the African Americans who settled in Grapevine nearly a century ago.
The three-hour ceremony included numerous tributes from family and friends — many from Love Chapel Church of God in Christ, where she has been a member since 1945.
The Rev. Robert Redmon Jr., pastor, grew up in the church where his father served as pastor from 1962 until his death in 1993.
He spoke of how Brewer — who was appointed to the role of Church Mother in 1994 — “loves no one more than the Lord, even her own nine kids.”
At the end of the ceremony, Brewer — who is known by most as Mother Brewer — sat in the front of the large crowd and gave a rousing thank you followed by a heartfelt Gospel song that had everyone standing.
Mayor William D. Tate proclaimed Oct. 15 as “Eliza Mae Brewer Day” in Grapevine in celebration of Brewer’s 90th birthday.
Her neighborhood is known as “The Hill,” a historic black enclave of simple homes where generations of black families have lived since the 1920s.
David Klempin, the city’s historic preservation officer, was a major catalyst in getting historical status for her home in the 400 block of Jones Street and two other area homes, saying the three female homeowners helped shape Grapevine.
That distinction led to her home being granted a historic landmark designation by the city two years ago.
“I thank God he left me here,” Brewer said. “He left me here for a reason. I thank everyone in Grapevine and wherever you all moved off to.”
“I’m going to sleep easier knowing that it’s mine forever,” Brewer said at the time. “And it’s a legacy for my children.”
Klempkin, who attended the birthday party, told the crowd, “It’s been such a joy to work with Mrs. Brewer. When someone needs information, we always turn to her for facts. Her heart is always open and whatever she says stands.”
Brewer, who worked hard her entire life cleaning homes until breathing difficulties forced her to retire six years ago, was touched by the outpouring of love and respect.
“I feel special,” Brewer said. “I feel very blessed.”
Brewer’s story begins in 1926 when she was born near Clarksville in East Texas. As a teenager, she moved to the area to babysit for a sister.
She met her future husband, John Wesley “Pete” Brewer and they married on Feb. 2, 1946.
“I don’t know why they called him Pete,” she said of her husband, whose jobs included working at a farm, an automobile business and a steel company.
Home of her own
They lived with various family members and a year later started their own family.
“There were a whole bunch of us,” she recalled of living in an early residence. “We slept on pallets. The snow and the rain would come in. That’s how poor we lived.”
She longed for a home of her own. And then her husband’s grandfather, Fee Chambers, decided to begin doling out parcels of land to family members. Pete and Eliza Brewer were given a little plot on Jones Street.
“We got some lumber and put up a little one-room shack,” Brewer said.
The years passed and the couple decided they had the money to build a proper house. She wanted it to be white trimmed in green — a color choice that never changed.
They found a construction company that put up the framing for a three-bedroom house. The price was $58 a month for 10 years.
“That was a lot in those days,” she said.
Their first daughter’s husband was a construction worker, so he took charge of finishing the house out. Family and friends nearby helped. That was how it was done back then.
And now, friends have come together again to let Brewer know she is a valued member of the community.
“Today is a special, special day for a special, special lady,” her pastor said.