Eloise White: The first 100 years

PRIMERA — Orchards and brush country.

That’s all you could see when Eloise White first moved to Weslaco in 1927.

She was just a little girl then, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. A.J. Hays. They’d lived in Oklahoma until that time, but his health had required a move.

A delightful surprise was their new ownership of a fruit orchard.

“I could run up and down the aisles of navel oranges, tangerines, pink grapefruit,” said White, recalling one of the details of her long and productive life.

Today, White turns 100. However, she celebrated her centennial Saturday in grand style at the home of her daughter Sharon Raye in Primera. Children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren filled her home, along with other friends and relatives.

Raye moved quickly about the house.

“I’m so excited,” said Raye, all smiles.

“It’s so awesome, the outpouring of support,” she said.

Mayor Dave Kusch spoke with White, as did several girl scouts who’d be holding a U.S. flag later in the evening during a parade in her honor. The Gutierrez Middle School band would also perform in the parade.

“I have had birthday parties for my mother every year for the past five years,” Raye said later. “For her 99th birthday, I said, ‘Next year I am going to have a parade.’”

Makena Silva, 10, of Girl Scout Troop 109, was looking forward to the parade.

“I think it’s cool to be here to love and cherish this woman,” Makena said. “I think God blessed her to be around all these loving people.”

Her comment naturally tied in with the inevitable question: What’s the secret to a long life?

“My faith in God and my family,” said White, a member of the First Baptist Church in Weslaco.

White’s relationship with God and family stretches back decades.

After graduating from Weslaco High School in 1933, she attended Baylor College. Upon returning to Weslaco, she worked as a cashier at the Ritz Theater and in the office of J.C. Penney’s.

“I married my boss, Frank White,” she quipped. “My husband served in WWII and was out of the states for three years. We had 46 years of marriage before he passed in 1988.”

She married again nine years later to Wayne Peck, a local pastor. He died in 2007.

White tries to remain as active as possible.

“I’ve been active in sports, different things like yoga, aerobics,” she said. “I have had to curtail a lot of my activities, like swimming.”

Raye said she wanted to extend the message that elders should be valued for their knowledge and experience. Eloise evidently has plenty of both, and more to come.