Happy 100th, Grannie!
My Grandmother Turns 100
This page is dedicated to Callie Perna Penland Stewart, my grandmother and sole living grandparent, who turned 100 in October 2009. Thankfully I was able to attend her birthday party with my children and get to see all my family - and it's a big family! Here's a tribute to my dear Grannie.
Grannie, about age 80
Happy Birthday Grannie!
Callie Perna Penland Stewart
100 years old
October 11, 2009
Grannie - Early Years
Callie Perna Penland was born in south Texas in October 1909, 9th of 12 children. Her brother Jack (the 8th child) died from a severe infection when a bullet that had been lodged in a piece of wood in the fireplace exploded and struck his foot. The 10th child, a son, lived only a few hours, and the final baby of the family was hydrocephalic and lived only two years, so she was the baby girl and in effect the second youngest of her large family.
Unassailable family legend has it that Grannie's great-grandmother was a Cherokee.
She married at age 16, had a baby at 17, and was widowed by age 19 when her husband caught scarlet fever. With Hazel, her two-year-old daughter, in tow, she caught the eye of two brothers: Charlie and Clarence Stewart. Strong, silent Clarence won out over his elder brother, outgoing Charlie. Clarence and Callie eloped and came home married, to everyone's surprise. She was 21; he was 19 - nearly scandalous at the time!
My grandfather Clarence and my great-uncle Charlie.
Clarence is the skinny, squinty one on the right.
Clarence and Callie, shortly after their wedding.
Clarence and Charlie lived on the family homestead outside Boerne, Texas, and worked together as cedar choppers and charcoal burners. (Boerne is "burney" - because I know you were wondering.) Cedar burned when it is green does not reduce to fine ash, but to a hard char which can be shaped into charcoal briquettes. The cedar is placed in a deep pit and covered with earth to seal out air, and burned over two to three days, carefully tended.
Clarence (left) and Charlie preparing a cedar burn.
Callie and Clarence moved into a home on the family spread with Hazel, Callie's two-year-old daughter. Charlie soon had a wife, Lilly, and they moved into their own home on the land; and Hazel soon had a baby brother, Herbert.
[back] Clarence & Callie, Charlie & Lilly,
[front] my great-grandparents George Washington "Babe" Stewart and Laura Mertz Stewart
holding my aunt Hazel and my uncle Herbert.
The well-stocked root cellar is to the left.
More babies came along until there were five: Hazel, Herbert, Annie Laura, Travis, and Mary Lou. Their fourth child, Travis, is my father. It never occurred to me until I was grown that his name "Travis" was wildly out of step with his siblings' very plain names of Hazel, Herb, Ann, and Mary. I discovered that my uncle Herb, six at the time, was given the privilege of choosing a name for his baby brother. He chose to name him after Colonel Travis of the Alamo.
Grannie's five children: my dad Travis in front blocking his brother Herbert,
Hazel with puppy, and Ann holding Mary.
This is my great-grandmother Laura with two of her other grandchildren, Charlie's kids Violet and Bill.
I include it here because of the interesting fact that my great-aunt Lilly was very ill after Violet was born, and was unable to nurse the baby. Violet and my father Travis were born within a few days of each other, so several times a day Charlie would carry Violet down the hill to my grandmother who nursed Violet along with her own baby, Travis.
My great-grandmother assisted as a granny-midwife at the births of most of her grandchildren. Callie also helped her friends and family as a granny-midwife, and all of her own children were born at home. In fact, my father was born in the same house, in the same room, in the same bed that his father was born in.
Though Grannie had only an 8th-grade education, and my grandfather went to school for only three or four years, they were very proud of the fact that all five of their children graduated from high school, and four of them also graduated from college. The collegial exception was the oldest, Hazel, who married at 17. Her first child, Shirley, is only a few years younger than her own youngest sister, Mary. My cousin Shirley's first child is my age.
Grannie holding her first grandchild, Shirley;
with her two youngest children Travis and Mary.
Paw and Grannie have
and more than 60
Rhoda Cupps Penland on her 76th birthday in 1949.
All of my great-grandmothers lived into their 90s,
and I was privileged to know each of them.
Has Anyone in Your Family Reached 100?
I just had to include this picture of my dreamboat Uncle Herb
with his rascally looking Tom Sawyer-like younger brother
- my father. Pretty sure he's sticking out his tongue.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Grannie - Later Years
Since the baby of the family, Mary, had no children, my father's children are the tag-alongs. I am the third youngest of 15 grandchildren; only one cousin and my brother are younger.
Paw and Granny in 1976,
with my older sister Laura on the horse.
My grandparents continued to live on lots of acreage (though not the original family homestead) and had a hard-working life. Not to gross anyone out too much, but for all of my life until just a few years ago, my grandparents and my dad (later just my dad and grandmother) ran a day hunting business on 1,500 acres, so I grew up seeing sights like this one. Because they drove each hunter to a blind to sit and hunt rather than letting them walk around freely, they never had any accidents in all those years.
My brother Brady in the snazzy plaid pants, my grandparents with a buck, a friend, and my sister on the horse.
Visiting the ranch was always a high point. Why, I could get bitten by geese, chased by javelinas, have my hand stepped on by a horse, or be trampled by an entire herd of sheep! But not all in one visit of course. Yes, all those things really did happen to me, but I still loved going to the ranch. The sheep mostly jumped over me, and the javelina was a half-tame one caught by my much older boy cousins, and if I had only stopped running it would have stopped chasing me ... but when you're three, that kind of logic just doesn't work.
Jenny the donkey carrying my sister Laura,
me in the middle, and my brother Brady.
I learned to sew at my grandmother's house. When she knew I was coming, Grannie always would have my absolute favorite baked beans - she was a wonderful cook! And, though she has pretty much quit cooking altogether in these later years, she still makes the most incredible biscuits I've ever eaten. Sheer heaven! (And yes, I am trying to get the recipe to post here!)
Grannie in 1985 at my wedding, with my younger brother.
Grannie in 1995 with my first baby.
My grandfather died at age 79, and by this time my grandparents were living in "town" but still had their 1,500-acre hunting lease. I say "town" in quotation marks because Reagan Wells is 20 houses in a spot on a road that goes up into the foothills and nowhere after that. But at least they had some neighbors!
Grannie lives in that house still, although as she became more frail, one of her three children who lived near or occasionally a grown grandchild would move in with her for a while to help out (though she still lived on her own - by her choice! - for long stretches until she was past 90). My father lived with her for several years after my mother died, and now she and my youngest aunt, Mary, live together on a permanent basis.
Grannie still gets around, sometimes with a cane. She had a mild stroke earlier this year and there was some concern that her 100th birthday would be a remembrance rather than a birthday party, but when her daughter told her it was three months until her birthday, she responded cheerfully, "Oh, I can make it that long!"
What's the Secret?
Who knows what the secret
is for getting to 100?
My dad and I joke that for Grannie,
it's because she's
always "doing better."
Whenever we call and ask how
she is, her invariable answer is,
"Oh, I'm doing better!"
"Better than what" is a moot
question, but we know
Grannie is always doing better!
Grannie in 2006, age 96.
This is Grannie in the middle, and to the left of the picture my dad and my brother, with my sister and me seated in front of them. The younger set is my four kids, my sister's three kids, and my brother's two kids. There were probably 60 people at the party - it was great!
Grannie made it to two more birthdays. About a month after her 102nd birthday, she slipped away quietly. She still lived in her own home, attended only by her youngest daughter, with no hospital stay.
Goodbye, Grannie - I know
you're doing better now!
My 100th Lens
This was the 100th lens I made on Squidoo and it fell conveniently within a couple of weeks of my grandmother's 100th birthday,
so I dedicated #100 to her.