Oldest Texas Resident Dies at 111 Years

Oldest Texas Resident Dies at 111 Years

By Cara Campbell

[email protected]


Death of a Legend

IMG_1327IMG_1353On Sunday, April 16 at 11:20 pm, the oldest person in Texas, Ellen Mae Tuttle Boenig, died in her home in the small town of Beeville, Texas. A funeral service was held in celebration of Ms. Boenig’s life at Galloway Funeral Home in Beeville Thursday, April 20 at 2 pm with her internment shortly after in Woodsboro, Texas.

Throughout her 111 years on Earth, Ms. Boenig had seven children, 20 grandchildren, 35 great grand grandchildren and 19 great-great grandchildren, many of which gathered together from all over the country to attend their “Big Mom’s” funeral service. Ms. Boenig’s son-in-law, Robert Shanks, and her two grandsons, Dixon and Sidney Shanks, traveled from Lufkin, Texas to attend the funeral. Other family members traveled from all over Texas and some from as far as the state of Maryland to honor Ms. Boenig’s life.

Though Ms. Boenig’s family came together under the circumstance of her death, they didn’t see her passing as a negative. Family members were seen laughing and carrying on before, during and after her ceremony. “The secret to her long life is family,” said grandson Glen Boenig, 59, of Woodsboro.

Sue Campbell, 54,  a grand daughter of Ms. Boenig’s,  also mentioned it was the “weirdest funeral” she had ever been to because everyone was laughing and smiling with each other. She said she, and everyone else, were at peace knowing “Grandmother” was “home now.”

Following her internment, Ms. Boenig’s family members came together to continue the celebration of her life with Texas bar-b-que, the sharing of momentums, and cutting cake in honor of her. Over one hundred of Ms. Boenig’s closest family and friends attended the event.

A Celebration of Life

Just months before her death, Ms. Boenig’s family members gathered together to celebrate a different occasion, her 111th birthday. On her special day, October 21, 2016, twelve of her eighteen grandchildren were present to sing happy birthday. After 111 years of life “(Ms. Boenig) would say if she could, ‘I have no worries and the Lord’s taking care of me.'” Glen Boenig said. “She’d tell you’d she’d been blessed and (about) the days she enjoyed life.”

Although the family wasn’t ever sure if it would be her last, they have gathered annually to celebrate Ms. Boenig’s birthday ever since they can remember and continue to do so in the future.

ellen mae

Photos of Ellen Mae Tuttle Boenig courtesy provided by the Boenig family.

Her Story

Theodore Roosevelt was president when Ellen Mae Boenig, of Beeville, was born in 1905. As long as Ellen lived, she was able to see and experience many things, including the introduction of the television, the inauguration of 21 U.S. presidents, seven wars and never missed an opportunity to travel. She once said, “I have been to every state except for Rhode Island; it was so small, we couldn’t find it.” A homemaker and an avid gardener for most of her life, she would recall accounts of when the horse and buggy was a popular travel means, as her family didn’t have a car until she was 13.

Boenig was raised in Blanconia by an aunt and uncle after her mother died giving birth. She was married in 1922 to Walter at 17 and moved to Beeville in 1941. A story Boenig loved to tell was from when automobiles first became available for common use, he said.

“Her father had a Ford Model-T, and she claimed she was the first female at 14 years old in Woodsboro to travel through town in a pickup,” he said. Glen Boenig’s father, Durwood, was the oldest of Ellen Boenig’s children and told stories about how the family loved to travel. “Even in the ’40s, my father recalled taking family vacations to faraway places,” he said.

His father attended the World’s Fair in the 1940s as a family. The last trip he remembered the family taking was in 1967 to Northern Alaska in a pickup and camper. Boenig described his grandmother as “always there.”

As a child, he remembered going to his grandmother’s house at least once a month on Sundays for family fun. “There were windmills to climb and horses in the backyard,” Boenig said. “It was a special time.” While attending community college, he would visit his grandmother in Beeville, who would have dinner ready in between his classes. “I remember she would prepare a white cake with chocolate pudding for desert,” he said. “Her peach cobbler never changed and was always perfect.”

An End to An Era

Though Ms. Boenig is now dead, her 74 family members (and counting) will continue celebrating her vibrant life for many generations to come.