This is a picture of a beautiful woman that everyone calls Sunny, because that describes her perfectly. She celebrated her one hundredth birthday this week on Christmas Day. No matter how feeble she’s become in the last two years, those who know her best still see only the smiling, gracious woman we’ve known all these years. Although time has certainly taken its toll on her face and body after 100 years of living on this often unpleasant planet, her personality still shines though with the cheerful sweater and stole she chooses to wear. No little old lady looks for her!
Sunny at Christmas/Birthday party in the Nineteen-nineties.
Growing up on a sheep ranch on the Llano Estacado, sometimes called the Staked Plain area of Texas and New Mexico, taught her that softies do not win in this life. Winning, or sometimes maybe just surviving, is only for those who work hard for what they want and need.
Being the oldest of three girls, she always did the “boys” chores while growing up. After she married her high school sweetheart and moved into town, she had to learn the “girls” chores like housekeeping and cooking. But she approached the new challenges with such determination and aplomb that she soon conquered unusual delicacies like home made doughnuts.
Her blissful life of keeping house and mothering her three children came crashing down around her about two weeks after they had celebrated the baby’s first birthday. Her beloved husband was killed in a plane crash, leaving her without insurance, but with debt from starting a new small business. At that time, she had never even written a check, much less balanced a check book. There was no time to grieve; she had to learn to provide sustenance immediately.
After an intense eight weeks of tutoring in typing and shorthand by a kindly Catholic neighbor (in an area so Protestant that there was only one Catholic church in the whole county), this twenty-eight year old began her new career. She became the secretary of one of the more successful businessmen in the area. Determined to make the best of every situation she faced, she absorbed the nuances and information of the new world of deals and legal transactions like a dry sponge placed under a running faucet.
But after a few years, she began to feel the need for a formal education and started searching her options. Her acceptance at a small college in Central Texas became the omen that the world agreed with her plan. With her usual grit and determination, she moved with her three children just in time to unpack before classes started.
Never one to tip toe in, unobtrusively, she jumped into the college life in the Fall of 1949 with all of the fervor of a small terrier that just found himself in possession of a meaty bone. On registration day, she eagerly signed up for 24 credit hours of work (8 classes) because she wanted to be sure to get her money’s worth out of school and she’d only saved up enough for one year.
After the white haired Registrar recovered from her fainting spell, she did manage to talk this ex-sheepherder into dropping one class. Still concerned about the 21 hour load for someone who had been out of school for fourteen years, she secretly contacted all the professors to look out for this crazy woman with three kids who expected college to be easy. The only problem with that tactic for the jaded professors was that each one of them was absolutely entranced by any student who was truly eager to learn, as opposed to just getting a diploma. And learning is easy when you’re excited about it. It was so easy for this beautiful woman that she graduated within four years with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major and double minor. And at the same time, she provided for and reared her three children.
Stay tuned for the rest of “This Is A Beautiful Woman;” we have 64 more years to go.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather