My friend Ms. Sadie

Last weekend, I flew to San Francisco to attend the biggest birthday bash I’ve ever seen.

Last weekend, I flew to San Francisco to attend the biggest birthday bash I’ve ever seen.

We celebrated the 100th birthday of Ms. Sadie Williams, an exceptional human being, kind and joyful and spirited — and someone I am lucky to consider a friend.

Our family met Ms. Sadie years ago at a senior living home in the Bay Area, where my own great-aunt Hilde Bruell spent the last few years of her life. Hilde, an Austrian Jew who witnessed and escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany and went on to build her own home and business in Oakland, died in late 2022 at the age of 106.

Faithfully attending Hilde’s birthday parties at this home was Ms. Sadie — whose warm personality and energetic wit made her my favorite of Hilde’s friends there. So when Ms. Sadie invited me to attend her 100th birthday party, I eagerly blocked out the weekend in my calendar.

Little did I know that this simple act — connecting people and relationship building — was one of Ms. Sadie’s many talents, and a gift that she had given to me.

Her birthday at Longshoreman’s Hall, a venue housing San Francisco’s ILWU Local 10, saw honors from the union and from Africa University in Zimbabwe. The love and respect for Sadie and her late husband Cleophas Williams was palpable.

Cleophas Williams was elected the first Black president of the ILWU Local 10 and was a key figure in the racial integration of the Longshoreman’s union. He and his fellow workers were at the vanguard of the labor movement’s involvement in civil rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s. And in 1972, he played host to a rally for political activist and author Angela Davis.

With Ms. Sadie Williams by his side, the two forged a legacy of equality, justice and leadership in their community and beyond. The Williams were an original power couple, and this week’s paper has neither the space nor the ink to fully describe their rich, storied lives.

Ms. Sadie’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, union workers and friends from across the country filled that union hall with pride — as united workers and as united sisters and brothers. The weekend wasn’t just a joyous way to celebrate Black History Month — it was an education in Black history and a vision of Black future.

There is a greater lesson in all of this, of course.

I owe my success in this profession to the mentors and peers who taught me and took risks by giving me responsibility. In much the same way, I would never have experienced this wonderful weekend without making a new friend in an unfamiliar place.

Ms. Sadie’s generosity of spirit is the fuel that makes good things happen in this world. Humans like her bind people together, lift them up and make them feel special and important.

We can and should look out for opportunities to enrich our own lives. But what are we doing to create those opportunities for others? How are we, like Ms. Sadie, turning strangers into friends and friends into family?

We have some ideas at The Beachcomber, and we hope to announce them soon.