Alice woman celebrates 99 years of life

Melissa Cantu Trevino
Alice Echo News Journal

Eddie A. Phenix celebrated her 99th birthday Thursday morning. Almost a century of happiness, laughter and struggles along the way.

"I was born in Runge, Texas in 1922, June 24th. Runge was a small place," Phenix said. 

Eddie A. Phenix, turned 99-years-old Thursday morning.

She moved to Alice with her mother in 1938 as a teenager. As a black woman she has seen her share of racism over her lifetime, but she doesn't let it stand in her way.

"To me there were a lot of blacks (in Runge), but everybody was separated. You know, whites over there, spanish and blacks were over here. I went to an all black school in Runge and moved around before we settled in Alice," Phenix said. 

Phenix and her mother moved to Alice when her mother remarried. Because she had spent most of her time in all-blacks schools, Phenix said she didn't experience racism right away since her environments consisted of only blacks.

Eddie A. Phenix (seated) pictured with her granddaughter Chandra Lewis (standing left) and her daughter Geradlyn Hopkins (standing right).

"Alice is a better now then what it was then. Back in those days it was segregated. It stayed that way for the longest time. Colored only, whites only (signs) were on some places especially in the bathrooms. We had to go in through back doors," Phenix said. "My step-father was a cook. He was the one cooking the food (at the businesses), but if we wanted something we had to go through the back door to get it."

She said her eyes began to open slowly. She questioned what was happening in her world especially the little things. In Phenix's early life they didn't have the technology to know what was happening in the nation. They had newspapers and a radio to keep them informed.

"I didn't question the things that were happening. It seemed natural growing up," Phenix said. "It wasn't until I got older that I realized why are these (people) doing this and why are those (people) doing that."

Phenix's aunt, Sophie Littles gathered family information and compiled a "book" of their family history. History that had been word of mouth from generation to generation. The family was able to trace their roots and discovered family that had been enslaved.

"Racism hurts. I don't appreciate it. Sometimes I thinks here is some of your own race and they're still in the same situation they've been all their lives. Why not do something to help themselves," Phenix said. 

Being 99 is "great" for Phenix except for the limited mobility. She raised her six children and worked hard in various jobs especially domestic services for community residents and businesses.

As a young woman, Phenix made $2.50 a week. She continued to work even if she was married. Sometimes she made $10 a week, on a good work week, and as the jobs got better she made $35 to $45 a week.

Phenix believes the secret to a long life is "positive thinking."

"When you doubt yourself on things, you just don't do them well. I say the length of time you have is not measured by the years that we live, but by the deeds that we do and the joy that you have in doing those deeds."

Chandra Lewis is one of Phenix's 23 grandchildren and describes Phenix as "divalicious."

"I love it because she doesn't act old. You know how they say that age is just a number, that's her. She doesn't act 99," Lewis said.

Having a long life in Phenix's life isn't uncommon. Her mom passed away at the age of 103, maternal grandmother was 99 and her paternal grandfather was 108 years old when they passed.

Phenix is a member of the True Light Baptist Church. Besides her six children and 23 grandchildren, Phenix has 52 great grandchildren and 28 great great grandchildren.