Helena Moore feels blessed for everything she has been given throughout her life. She celebrated her 102nd birthday April 16. (Amy Vogelsang photo)
The piano sings out the classic “Jesus Loves Me” tune as folks gather in the La Villa-Emeritus Assisted Living common room. A beautifully decorated white cake with pink roses has “Happy Birthday Helena” scrawled in perfect pink script.
Helena Moore is 102 years old, but looking at her, one would never know. She is alert as ever, and incredibly spry in a white shirt with frills on the front tucked into a pink shin-length skirt.
“This is so nice,” Moore said of her party. “I never expected any of this. Thank you, all of you, so very, very much.”
Always grateful and having learned never to take anything for granted, Moore was born on April 16, 1911, in Ellis County, Okla. Although she had a brother two years her senior, her sister was three years younger.
“Of course, I was raised on a farm, and my mother had arthritis, and, of course, with me being the oldest girl, well, when I was 8 years old, I was baking bread. And, of course, I didn’t play much like other children because of that. There were times when I would feel sorry for myself, but when I got older, I thought how blessed I was to learn the things I did,” she said.
At only 8 years old, Moore was doing most of the household chores. One of the things she most prided herself on was her ability to prepare a chicken quickly — two hours, barnyard to dinner table.
Most people talk about the journey to school, walking uphill both ways, but Moore’s trek to school was an eventful experience. She and her brother walked 2 miles through a canyon, a creek, farming fields and finally crossed through barbed wire to reach the schoolhouse, the first school in the area to get a phone.
“One time (my brother and I) thought we just did not want to walk anymore,” Moore said. “So Daddy told us we had a buggy, and we could drive the horses. I think that lasted two or three days is all. Then we were glad to walk.”
She lived in a different time. Grocery prices were lower (98 cents for a pound of flour), work was hard and never finished on the farm, and travel was much more challenging. And family was important. Moore recalls her mother taking the three kids — ages 12, 10 and 7 at the time — on a 100-mile trek to Blaine County, Okla., in a surrey, a topless, two-seated buggy.
“I just thought how brave our mother was to take us three kids. And there was one place where we spent the night, and there were these dogs, and it seemed like they barked all night. And we kids were afraid that maybe our team would get loose and go home, and we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere,” Moore said laughing.
When she was 17, Moore married Leonard Moore, who would be her companion for nearly 60 years. They had a son Norman, followed three years later by a daughter Margaret. And all her grandparents lived until after the birth of her first child.
“I think that is important. I always thought it was such a blessing,” Moore said. But there were plenty of hardships as she and Leonard struggled to raise two children in the heart of the Great Depression.
“Times were not good then. But we were happy. All we knew was we worked hard. Worked our farm,” Moore said. Because of the hardships she said there were many things they could not provide for their children. But they did instill some core values in them, one being to do whatever it was they wanted to do in life.
“Of course, we didn’t want them to be a bootlegger or something,” Moore said with a chuckle, “but (we wanted them) to pursue (their goals).” And they did. Norman worked many years with the railroad and Margaret became a schoolteacher.
When the children were school age, Moore and her husband moved to Higgins, Texas, to live in town and be closer to the school. This put them right in the path of the deadliest tornado ever to strike within Oklahoma borders. Starting in White Deer, Texas, the Woodward tornado traveled up through Higgins and into Kansas, in April 1947. She refers to the tornado as “a bad point.”
But the bad points don’t cloud Moore’s memories. She has been blessed and is grateful for everything she has been given, she said.
“And I didn’t say this to begin with, but honey, the greatest thing that ever happened was that I know the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior,” Moore said emphatically. “That has been the high point of my life. He had a special purpose for my life and has given me all I have.”
Her faith and membership in the First Baptist Church led her to meet her closest friend. Two years after her husband passed away in 1987, Moore moved to Fort Sumner and met Goldie Jester. They went to the same church and quickly became friends who frequently went to Clovis to shop.
“I drove her everywhere for years,” Jester said. “She’s my buddy.” Moore and Jester have written letters and visited when possible since Moore moved to Roswell two years ago.
Other friends and former neighbors from Fort Sumner, Jim and Bell Elliott, also visit.
“(Helena) always wants to go to iHop,” Jim said. “So we eat breakfast at noon.”
Everyone she talks to loves Helena Moore. The party and cards she received for her 102nd birthday blew her away, but she deserved every bit of the attention.
As La Villa Activities Director Dixie Wayne put it, “We are so blessed to know her.”