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Local Coleman resident, Hellen Estelle (Jennings) Isenberg, celebrated her 101st birthday on Saturday November, 7, 2020.
Four generations, ranging in ages of two months to 80 years old, made the trip to wish Estelle a happy birthday in a parade of family and friends.
Going by her middle name, Estelle, she was born on November 7, 1919 to Thomas Homer and Lula Florence (Leach) Jennings near Nida on the Twelve Mile Prairie. Estelle has been a lifelong resident of Atoka, Johnston, and Bryan Counties; the majority of her time spent living in the Coleman area.
Estelle has seen many changes come to southeastern Oklahoma.
At six years old, on April 23, 1926, a large tornado came through Filmore, Coleman, and Hopewell destroying multiple homes, including her own.
Estelle recalled that the Red Cross brought her family a large army tent to live in until the home could be rebuilt.
The tent was used often as her family were cotton pickers that traveled for work. While living in Cobb, the family would make the three day trip by covered wagon to Wayne to pick cotton, making an overnight stop at a spring in Sulphur.
After a particularly rainy trip, a store owner’s wife fed all 14 of them because the family could not get a fire started in the rain. Estelle says her family was grateful for the meal, and always did business with the store whenever they passed by.
She worked at a sewing factory and nursing home in Tishomingo. Estelle also made lunches for the workers of the Kansas, Oklahoma, and Gulf Rail Line as they repaired the railroad near her home in Coleman.
Her husband, Herschel, worked at the National Youth Administration in Tishomingo. His crew would take stones from one building to build another. Estelle commented that a building he helped build is still standing in Tishomingo, last used as the National Guard Armory.
Living through the Great Depression, and the major ice storm of 1949; Herschel borrowed a friend’s Model A to drive the ten miles to Wapanucka to fetch a doctor when Estelle was due to deliver one of their nine children during the ice storm.
Estelle remembered a time before they had electricity. Although they had only had it for a short time, when the ice storm knocked out the power Estelle realized they were already spoiled. It was hard to go back to the lamps, and they had never thought about functioning with lamplight in the house until after they got electricity.
They were one of the first people, in the area, to have a television. Visitors would stop by to watch a program or two. When more and more people began showing up they moved the television out onto the porch at night and told them to shut the TV off when they were done.
Estelle still lives at her home in Coleman. A people person, she enjoys visiting with her children, and grandkids. Her hobbies include her yard, flowers, and keeping an eye on the cows. She enjoys visitors most of all, but is ready for “this Covid virus to move on” so that she can get back to seeing her people.