At 103, “Miss B” might just be the oldest practicing SGI Buddhist in the U.S.
by Val Kurita
In 2010, after decades of dreaming up birthday gift ideas for her mother, longtime SGI-USA member Joanna Mosely was stumped. When she asked her mother what she’d like, Miss B (as she is affectionately known) replied, “Is it too late for me to join the organization?” And that’s just what she did, at 97 years old.
At 103, Miss B might just be the oldest practicing SGI Buddhist in the U.S. Family, friends, neighbors and fellow SGI members seek her quiet wisdom and encouragement, which she dispenses from her command post: a bed in the small apartment she shares with her daughter, Joanna. Nieces and nephews often call upon Miss B with questions and ideas about their family history, which she sets straight with precise recall.
Beatrice Mosely was born on Sept. 5, 1913, in South Carolina. In the 1930s, she married and moved with her husband, James, to Harlem in New York City. Her husband worked diligently as a truck driver to support their family. Although Miss B never had to take a job outside the home, she worked hard as a homemaker—cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of so many neighborhood children that Joanna grew up believing that she had lots of brothers and sisters.
Joanna received the Gohonzon in 1972 when she was suffering in an unhappy marriage. Living with her mother and having been brought up Christian, she was apprehensive about what her mother would think. “When I brought the Gohonzon home and enshrined it, my mother wasn’t even a bit fazed,” Joanna recalls. “Whenever I was struggling, she’d say, ‘Go sit in front of your box, say those words and you’ll be all right.’ ”
“If someone was rude to her, she always spoke softly so that they had to lean in to hear what she was saying.”
Miss B took care of Joanna’s children when she attended SGI activities; and when the local members took part in parades and other performances, she helped sew costumes.
It seems that Miss B’s personal philosophy matched perfectly with Buddhist thinking. “My mother always told us to respect and love one another, to not be angry and to be in control of yourself,” Joanna says. “With the prayer for our own human revolution that we are focusing on now as women of the SGI, I’m really studying my mother, because she’s just always had it naturally. If someone was rude to her, she always spoke softly so that they had to lean in to hear what she was saying.”
Miss B moved to the Frederick Douglass Houses on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1969. Carmen Quiñones is a 35-year resident there and president of the tenant association. She and Joanna have been friends for many years, and, in 2013, Ms. Quiñones received the Gohonzon. “Miss B was very comforting when my mother passed away,” Ms. Quiñones says. “She has a way of calming you down, and she hugs with a magic touch.”
Ms. Quiñones says she wanted to do something special for Miss B’s 103rd birthday. She called Magee Hickey, a well-known local New York City reporter at WPIX (Channel 11). When the news segment aired on TV, local SGI members sent email blasts about the good news. In the segment, granddaughters Alisha and Dree-el, both members, expressed through tears their boundless appreciation for their grandmother’s unconditional love and ever-youthful spirit.
SGI President Ikeda has said of the Many Treasures Group, for members who are 65 and over, “The person who continues striving to the very end is truly admirable, genuinely young at heart, eternally ageless and a victor whose life is replete with the greatest happiness and fulfillment” (Oct. 12, 2007, World Tribune, p. 7).
Whenever Miss B is concerned about something—whether medical care or getting her bed’s remote control fixed, she chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sees immediate results. “Right in this apartment, whatever I need comes to me,” she says.
On the day of this interview, Miss B’s living room was crowded with fellow members from Riverside District. The appreciation and respect that Miss B’s compassion has engendered clearly transcends physical restrictions. She is thrilled when occasional meetings are held at her home and loves to meet the members.
When asked the secret to longevity, Miss B replied: “I always say, be good, mind your business, and you’ll live long.”