‘100 years blessed’ – Gifford drive-by parade celebrates woman’s birthday

Friends and family gathered at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center Sept. 5, 2020 to surprise Anna Lee Lane on her 100th birthday by forming a parade with their decorated vehicles. [Kaila Jones/ Vero News]

GIFFORD — Anna Lee Lane took pride in working the voting polls for 25 years.

Anna Lee Lane

For Lane, it was a personal understanding, as African-Americans overcame barriers over the years to secure voting rights and be seen as equal.

“I was a concerned citizen,” said Lane, who turned 100 Thursday.

Lane volunteered at local voting polls, signing up residents for registration to ensure their voices would be heard. Lane worked at the polls up until her 80’s, family members said.

“She loves giving back,” said her son Johnny Lee Lane, 70, Indiana. “She worked at the polls while I was in school.”

Aside from being a poll worker, Lane had a full schedule as a caregiver, teacher’s aide and a church deaconess, family members said. Saturday, Gifford residents gathered at Victor Hart Sr. Community Enhancement Complex for a surprise drive-by parade to celebrate Lane, who they consider a “pioneer.”

‘100 years blessed’

Lane’s relatives traveled from different parts of Florida and the country for her birthday, a milestone which family members consider a blessing.

Lane, donned in a tiara and a pink sash that read “100 years blessed,” sat in the shade of a tent in the park. Just down the road, other family and friends sat in dozens of colorfully decorated vehicles, waiting for the drive-by parade to start.

Some vehicles had messages that read, “Happy Centennial,” “Love, your great-grands.” Another read “Happy Birthday GG” – a family nickname that means ‘great grandmother.’

Deputies, police and firefighters joined the rolling parade with lights and sirens to show Lane birthday love.


“I feel good, the Lord has been good to me,” Lane said. “I was surprised.”

Lane’s grandson, Sean Lane, 52, Jacksonville, presented his grandmother with a portrait of herself painted by his daughter, Brenda Lane.

There was also music.

Johnny Lee Lane, a percussionist, joined three others as they tapped on Djembe West African drums to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

The St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church praise team sung Lane a happy birthday song along with well-known, traditional gospel hymns.

On Thursday, Indian River County Commissioner Joe Flescher went to Lane’s home. Flescher presented Lane with a proclamation honoring her 100th birthday, family members said.

‘Growing up in Gifford’

Lane was born five months after the Spanish Flu pandemic ended. She has lived through 18 U.S. presidents and wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Germany.

Lane was born Sept. 3, 1920, in Tylertown, Miss., located north of the Louisiana border line. Lane was the oldest of 10 siblings, family members said.

Three of her siblings are still living, including Joyce Reagan Brown, in her 60’s, Georgia; Christine Barriner, early 70’s, Gifford; and Willie C. Reagan, 80, Gifford. Reagan is one of the original Florida Highwaymen, a group of African-American landscape artists who traveled, painted what they saw and sold their artwork out of the trunks of their vehicles, Johnny Lane said.

Lane’s family moved to Gifford when she was just five years old, Johnny Lane said.

Lane was a point guard on the Gifford High School basketball team, known as the “Tigers.” She graduated from the school in 1938 and was part of its first graduating class, Johnny Lane said.

Lane’s family believes she is the only living classmate from the 1938 class.

Lane attended class during a time when schools in the county were still segregated. There were only dirt roads in Gifford and African-Americans were not allowed in downtown Vero Beach past 5 p.m., Johnny Lane said.

‘A Pioneer’

Lane worked as a caregiver for more than 15 years, relatives said. Lane helped to start Lincoln Park Kindergarten in Gifford, which continued for more than 30 years, said her granddaughter Latoya Barber, 43, Wellington.

Lane worked as a teacher’s aide at the day care, located next to her home, Barber said. Lane’s residence was one of the first homes built on 31st Avenue, relatives said.

Lane, a longtime member and deaconess of St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church, often baked cakes for church fundraisers, Barber said. Lane is also a member of Order of the Eastern Star Masonic group.

In 2015, Indian River County commissioners honored her as a pioneer and gave her keys to the city, said family friend Kimberly Wright, 41, Gifford.

Lane was still driving her vehicle when she was in her 90’s, family members said. Family members said Lane wishes she still had her driver’s license.

Lane’s husband Alfred Lane, who died in 1979, had his own landscaping business. He also worked for Floyd Funeral Home, now known as Strunk Funeral Home, Johnny Lane said.

Still Sharp

Everyday, Lane completes Word Finders and crossword puzzles to keep her mind stimulated, Barber said. Barber said Lane started doing the brain exercises when she was in her 50’s.

Barber said Lane also prays often for the world and her family.

“She’s the sweetest person,” Wright said. “She has always been so loving and a natural caregiver.”

Lane’s eldest son, Reuben, died in 2014, Johnny Lane said. Lane has five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Lane said her secret to longevity is to treat people right.

“Be good to people, stand up for your rights, go to school and get your education,” Lane said.

Photos by Kaila Jones and provided by Kimberly Wright

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