When the officers who teach the Norfolk Citizens' Police Academy received Josephine Demmons McBride's application, they thought the birthdate she'd supplied was a typo. It listed '08.
Officer Jhet Sarmiento called McBride and verified her age.
"I actually called my partner and said, 'Dude, there's a lady that's going to come and she's 101 years old.' "
Officer Miles Warren wasn't buying it.
"I said, 'No, that can't be right, because who, at 101, would be able to come and do all the things that we have to do?" Warren said.
Josephine McBride graduated from the academy Thursday night after 12 weeks of classes, including one at the shooting range, where she fired a submachine gun.
She joined the academy alongside about a dozen members of her Lindenwood/Cottage Heights/Barraud Park Civic League. She wanted to better understand the Police Department.
"As a person living alone, I need protection. And I think that the police are one of the sources that I have to protect me," McBride said.
Graduates of the class ranged in age from 19 to 101. Warren and Sarmiento can't recall a student past his late 70s. At its first meeting, the class gave McBride a standing ovation.
She always showed up with her notebook and a smile, Sarmiento said.
For most of her life, McBride didn't know her age. She never got a birth certificate.
"I didn't know really how old I was until I retired, until I searched the census" of 1910, she said.
The retired nurse said her favorite week included the trip to the shooting range. One of her shots with the submachine gun pierced the dummy's shoulder, and it fell to the ground.
But the tour of the jail deeply upset her, seeing so many young people behind bars.
"To see those people in the cells - many in the room together, some in the bed, some looking out the window, some playing cards and some looking through the little holes. Those were the ones that were beyond control."
McBride said she still plants her own garden - string beans, squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers and a watermelon. She catches the bus to go shopping and to go to the bank. She attends Seniors in Action meetings and Bible study, and she goes to church every Sunday at First Baptist Church on Bute Street.
"Everybody asks me, 'What's the secret?' I don't know the secret of living, only having faith in God, trusting in him," she said.
"And I just believe that it only has been the Lord's will that I have lived this long."
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