There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
― Sophia Loren
The recent column about the FISH organization in Bowie, by all accounts expertly organized and managed by Vail and Barbara Clemence, along with the recent death of Bowie booster extraordinaire Senator Mary Conroy, caused contemplation of the many super seniors who are a large part of Bowie’s citizenry.
Today, please meet one of the super seniors who enriches the lives of all who know her—Mrs. Vera Willie Pitts, a resident of the “B” section of Bowie. Willie, as she has been called all her life, moved to Bowie in February, 1966 from Thailand where her military husband, Ben, had been stationed. Along with their five children, they arrived here in the midst of the incredible “blizzard of 66.” Because of the deep snow, it was several days before Willie could get out in the car to learn more about her newest city of residence.
Born in Venetta, Oklahoma in 1917, only six years after Oklahoma became a state, Willie was the youngest of ten children. She enjoys laughing about her older siblings spoiling her “rotten.” Her older brother insisted on calling her “Willie,” even though her first name was Vera. He felt that the name perfectly fit the tomboy image that Willie earned fair and square. In fact, the same older brother named his own daughter after Willie.
Willie grew up during the great depression of the 1930’s. She well remembers the poverty suffered by her own family and others. Her mother was a stay at home mom who fed not only her own family but gave food to people coming to the house looking for food or work. Willie wore “hand-me-down” clothes and the family relied on the social premise of people helping people to survive.
Ben and Willie dated for two years and some of that time was “dating via letters” since Ben was in the army as a World War II draftee. Ben, stationed at the time in New Jersey, borrowed $600 dollars to get married, and wrote Willie to come to New Jersey. They were married on November 14, 1942. Willie smiles while thinking of what she describes as their nine month honeymoon. Every week-end they went from New Jersey to Manhattan and always had a wonderful time. Willie was 25 at the time, and remembers looking over New York harbor seeing ships everywhere headed off to war.
In 1945 when the war ended, Ben was sent on a peace mission to China with General Marshall. Soon, Willie took her two children and traveled to Washington State where all three of them sailed to Japan to see Ben. They lived in Japan for two years. She has lovely memories of living in Japan and one is particularly specific. Willie says she remembers “looking over her balcony and seeing all the Japanese women in their Kimonos and little black umbrellas everywhere just bouncing around through the crowds.”
While in Japan, Willie took Ikebana flower arranging classes, a talent she still enjoys today. She played bridge and bingo with other military wives, and was President of the Army Wives’ Club. During this period, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the group and Willie was able to meet her. After assignments to Canada and White sands, New Mexico, the family moved to Bangkok, Thailand. Willie wistfully speaks of having five servants to help with the children, cooking and cleaning while the family was in Thailand.
The previous paragraphs give us a sense of the experiences Willie had before moving with her husband and family to Bowie. Those varied experiences stood her in good stead for being active in Bowie, while also being a busy military wife here.
Willie found Grace Baptist Church, at the time meeting in a rancher house at the corner of Belair Drive and Shelter Lane, and it became the church home of the Pitts family. In 1975, Willie was instrumental in the founding of Grace Christian School. She was an art teacher and assistant administrator at Grace for 12 years until her retirement in 1987. Willie is still an active member of the church and attends Ambassador’s Bible Class weekly on Tuesdays.
Too soon, Willie faced the final illness and death of her husband Ben in 1983. She continued to travel extensively, especially after her retirement in 1987.
The family of five children that moved to Bowie in 1966, has grown to include daughters in laws and sons in laws and grandchildren. In fact, Willie is now a great grandmother several times over. Her family is large, boisterous and happy . Willie says they all get along splendidly.
In her 90’s, Willie Pitts remains active, healthy, happy and enjoying life. During her long and busy life, she has touched the hearts of many in very positive ways. Her enthusiasm for life continues to bless and inspire those lucky enough to know her.
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week