Neva Wade

She has served as board treasurer at the Houston Senior Center since 1986 and has been a volunteer there since the 1970s. She also is the treasurer for Brown Hill Baptist Church near Houston.

And Neva Wade turned 98 last Friday.

“I started at the Senior Center on February 17, 1975,” Wade said. “I didn’t know what a senior center was then. I was asked to fill in when someone was absent, and that’s the way I started.”

Born and raised in Roby, Wade has lived in Houston since 1973 and has been a resident of Texas County for all but10 years of her life, when she and her late husband Howard Wade lived in Wright County near Howard’s home town of Manes. She attended high school at Plato and worked for 20 years in the laundry department at Fort Leonard Wood, eight of those years as supervisor in the marking department.

Wade has in the past had thoughts of taking it easier and letting someone else assume her position as treasurer at the Senior Center.

“I tried to resign, but they wouldn’t let me,” she said. “But I’ve been here this long now, and I wouldn’t feel right not to come. There are a lot of people here who I consider family.”

Like countless doctors, Wades believes that the key to living a long, healthy life is eating right and getting exercise.

“I buy meat and vegetables with less preservatives and I’ve always been active,” she said. “I’ve always done lots of walking, and I still do.”

Her role at the Senior Center also helps keep her going.

“This gives me an incentive to get up and try to dress nice enough and clean enough to come out among people,” she said.

Having spent the bulk of a century living in the United States, Wade has observed plenty of changes in society. She said the greatest changes have taken place recently.

“The biggest change I ever saw is now,” Wade said. “It’s nothing like it was when I was growing up. We never locked our door; now I don’t leave a door or a window open when I go to bed.”

Before processed foods became the norm in many Americans’ diets, Wade got her first job in a grocery store while still a high school student.

“People would bring in a bowl or a bucket and bought their lard by the pound, and we would grind coffee for them,” she said. “Now, everything is packaged and ready to go. And back then, they kept eggs and chickens and cream in the store. You can’t do that now.”

During that same period, prices were often measured in amounts under a dollar.

“Back then, you could buy material for eight cents a yard and a pair of shoes for 50,” she said. “My kids and grandkids laugh at me, because they can’t imagine.”

While people of the last couple of generations take many forms of technology – like cars – for granted, Wade comes from a time when internal combustion engines weren’t so commonplace.

“There really was no transportation,” she said. “I walked three miles to grade school.”

Wade, who was secretary and treasurer of the Houston chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association for 25 years, was re-elected to another three-year term on the Senior Center board earlier this year.

“After I was elected, I told them I’ll be 101 when this one’s up,” she said. “They just won’t let me go.”

Bernadine Hohlt has been the Senior Center’s director since 2002. She said there’s good reason for wanting to retain Wade’s services.

“Neva is a wonderful person and I don’t know what I would have done without her here,” Hohlt said. “She’s given me so much advice and she’s still very witty and sharp as a tack at the age of 98. She’s a driving force at the senior center and she’s a volunteer like no other I’ve ever seen. She’s very dedicated and it’s like a job to her.

“It wouldn’t be the same without her being here. It’s not the same on those couple of days a week when she stays home.”

Wade was also re-elected as church treasurer this year.

“I’ve tried to do away with that,” she said, “but I missed the election this year. They said they railroaded me.”

Thanks to her longevity, Wade has the unusual opportunity to be around great and great-great grandchildren. On the days leading up to her 98th birthday, her relatives and friends took turns helping her celebrate another year.

“It’s been my birthday all week,” Wade said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

I tried to resign, but they wouldn’t let me. But I’ve been herethis long now, and I wouldn’t feel right not to come. There are alot of people here who I consider family.”

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