On Oct. 2, Billie Arnette, of Bridge City celebrated her 100 birthday. With a small host of friends, a party was held for her on Friday at the Bridge City Bank in Bridge City. As table bedecked with pink cupcakes arranged in a 1-0-0 and gifts awaited her as well as the Cardinal Singer sang “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony.

To say she was a bit overwhelmed might be an understatement as she kept asking those around her who had arranged for the celebration, “What am I going to do with you!” There were some tears and plenty of hugs to go along with the gifts for a lady who has seen plenty in her time.

Born in Hutchinson, Kan., Billie finished her eighth grade education, not uncommon for a female 90 plus years ago. She met her husband Lawrence whom she married on April 14, 1933 (Good Friday that year), who served in the Army in Germany. While he was enlisted she worked at a dry cleaners.

Billie and Lawrence moved to Texas after he secured work here as a concrete finisher. And work he did. For most of their 63 year marriage, she was a homemaker.

Friend, Sherry Seago remembers the couple from when she first met them. A cashier at a local hospital, Sherry helped Lawrence, who was having some health challenges.

“They were the most wonderful couple,” Seago said, “He was tall and bigger, she was so petite. Kind of a Mutt and Jeff.”

Billie, who has been widowed for many years now, still lives in her own home, on her own, and as much as possible, on her own terms. With the help of Sherry and others who have realized she is older but independent, the good neighbors of the community keep up with meeting or helping her meet her own needs.

Michelle Richardson, who organized the party and is an employee of Bridge City Bank, recognized the need to celebrate such a watermark birthday.

They do not rush her, and she takes her time. She greets each guest and opens each gift. Her slight frame is swallowed up in a normal sized chair, but she smiles and laughs and scolds them for their gestures of friendship.

“She lost everything in Ike,” Sherry said. The picture frames Billie unwrapped will hold photos taken at the party, “We all love her so much!” These ‘young’ women have become the children she never birthed. The grandkids she never chased. They watch out for her needs and care for her. But it definitely is her very own independence that has gotten her to 100 years. Her balance is a little unsteady and her hearing has to be helped with an aid, but her mind is sharp and her memories intact.

What is her personal secret to living a long life? Simple put she replies, “Stubbornness!” She doesn’t need to explain. When you hit 100 you want people to listen but explanations are unnecessary for some things. A will to live, to get well, to keep going, to get up every day even when you have seen tragedy and loss on a scale few can imagine.

So what fond memories sustain her? What makes her happiest? Her answer again is singularly simple, “My memories of my husband and marriage. We were married for 63 years and eight months.”

There are many who love her, who honor her. A life well lived, at least the first 100 years. Now, on to the next 100.