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Maggie Osceola celebrates 93rd birthday among family, friends

Maggie Osceola 93yrsHOLLYWOOD — Maggie Osceola’s foremost childhood memory is following her father on family journeys into the Everglades to hunt. It was a long time ago, but she remembers it well.

Recent memories include her 93rd birthday party Nov. 1 at the Seminole Estates Clubhouse, where multiple generations celebrated the quiet family matriarch. Loved ones lined up for photos, shared laughs and basked in the warmth of family.

Babies slept, children played and adults reminisced, while Maggie, of the Bird Clan, took it all in from her seat at the center of the attention.

Like many Seminoles of her generation, Maggie’s actual birthday remains a mystery; the Bureau of Indian Affairs assigned her Nov. 1, 1920. The daughter of Mary Motlow Osceola and Jimmy Hank Osceola, she was born and raised in the Everglades near the Tamiami Trail.

Even as other Seminole families relocated to tourist villages to earn a living, Maggie’s family remained in the Everglades until the 1940s when they settled on the Dania Reservation – now Hollywood.

After her father passed away, Maggie’s mother moved the family there to be near their uncle, who was a pastor. Maggie married Jack Osceola and together they had eight children. Six surviving siblings, Adam, Moses, Curtis, Maydell, Mary Gay and Mabel, all live in Hollywood near their mother.

Maggie said finding Jesus and becoming a Christian are the greatest accomplishments of her life.

“One morning she said we’re going to church,” said her daughter Mary Gay Osceola. “We’ve been going to the First Seminole Baptist Church all these years.”

Making traditional crafts is important in Maggie’s life. In the 1960s, she worked at the village in Hollywood where she made baskets, dolls, beadwork, patchwork and dresses. Today, she still fashions dolls, although the fibers aren’t always easy to find.

A traditional housewife, Maggie cared for the family while her husband worked. Sometimes the family would follow him while he worked construction jobs out of town. When he joined the military, Maggie took care of her children.

“She always took care of us and never left us,” Mary Gay said. “She is kind of a quiet person, but she always made us go to school.”

In a role reversal, Maggie’s children now take care of her even though she still lives in her own home.

Her son takes her to church and all the siblings make sure Maggie has everything she needs every day. Mary Gay said she knows her mother is happy knowing her children are doing well.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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