Garrie Phillips, a resident of Dogwood Forest of Dunwoody, was honored July 9 as she celebrated her 101st birthday.

Garrie Phillips

Garrie Phillips, right, receives a key to the city from Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch.

Known by friends at Dogwood Forest as Ms. Garrie, she was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the American naval base just before 8 a.m.

Ms. Garrie grew up in a small town near Charlotte, North Carolina. In September of 1941, when she was 21 years old, she married Tom Crayton. Crayton was serving in the Navy, and the couple were sent to San Diego soon after they were married. It was Ms. Garrie’s first time on a train.

At San Diego, they discovered their next destination would be Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Tom Crayton was told by his commanding officer, “I’ve been waiting for someone like you to take this minesweeper to Pearl (Pearl Harbor).”

They arrived at Pearl Harbor on Thanksgiving Day in 1941.

Ms. Garrie stayed with friends and was at their apartment on the day of the attack. Her husband was aboard a submarine conducting mine sweeps.

Many of Ms. Garrie’s family did not have phones in 1941, but she and her husband were able to get in touch with an uncle after the bombing to let the family know they were safe. Tom Crayton’s brother was also stationed at Pearl Harbor and miraculously escaped harm. Ms. Garrie recalls that the brothers waved to each other a few days later when their paths crossed.

Christmas Eve night of 1941 they were evacuated from the base, and Ms. Garrie returned home to North Carolina after a stop in San Francisco.

Tom Crayton died toward the end of the war when he saw a fight break out and tried to intervene, something he had done on other occasions. He was knocked against a wall, suffered a concussion and died from his injuries. Ms. Garrie was left alone with a 28-day-old daughter. Ms. Garrie later remarried and had a son, her second child.

Her 101st birthday celebration included a drive-by parade of the Sandy Springs Fire and Police departments and a proclamation and key to the city of Dunwoody, presented by Mayor Lynn Deutsch. Ms. Garrie said it was a wonderful event, but she reminisced on how her 100-year birthday had many more attendees. Coronavirus kept the numbers down this year.

Ms. Garrie stays busy at Dogwood Forest caring for potted plants and an herb garden, as well as placing flowers in vases in the dining room and other community rooms. When asked about her secrets to a long life, Ms. Garrie stated that she wasn’t done yet. She shared her pride in being able to do many things for herself.

You can email Valerie at or visit her website at

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