Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

April 7, 2010

A century in the making

Eunice Sanborn becomes nation’s oldest living person

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville’s own Eunice G. Sanborn became the oldest living person in the United States Tuesday.

Her full life has spanned three centuries — part of the 19th, all of the 20th, and now well into the 21st century — and has been a Jacksonville fixture for more than 70 decades.

Cherokee County Historical Commission member Shelley Cleaver knows Sanborn well — his mother was in Sanborn’s Sunday school class when he was young — and he continues to visit the supercentenarian (someone who has lived more than 110 years) on a regular basis.

He said perhaps Sanborn’s most widely recognized accomplishment was the construction of the Love’s Lookout Recreation Park. She and her then-husband, Wesley Garrett, built the park in 1937, shortly after they moved to Texas.

“It had the first concrete swimming pool between Dallas and Shreveport,” Cleaver said. “It was a nice facility, and it was her goal in life to build it.”

The park was a hotspot for fun for decades. It was located near the current Love’s Lookout Visitor Center, and buildings from the recreation park still sat on the original site as late as 2004, when the structures were finally demolished.

Sanborn’s long time friend Christine Bunn said Sanborn has always loved traveling.

“You could just say ‘go’ and she was there,” Bunn said. “She’s a wonderful person.”

Bunn said she and Sanborn met at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville during the earlier years of their more than 50-year friendship.

Sanborn has been on an elite list of only 74 living people in the world who have lived past the age of 110 for a few years now, but she became the oldest living American at 4 a.m. Tuesday when Iowa City’s Neva Morris passed away in a nursing home, according to the Associated Press.

Cleaver said Sanborn was born in 1886, putting her age at 113 and 261 days, but added Sanborn had always told him she was born in 1885.

“At that age a year doesn’t make a lot of difference,” he said.

Sanborn still resides in her home of more than 60 years — a large two-story Victorian — where she has round-the-clock care.

An attendee of her last birthday party said while she has trouble hearing and cannot speak, she clearly responds to and recognizes those who come to visit her.

Cleaver said when she was young, Sanborn, born Eunice Orchin Lyons in Lake Charles, La., was a gorgeous young lady with red hair and blue eyes.

He also said she outlived three husbands and her only daughter, Dorothy, who died at the age of 90.

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