Maria Socorro Sanchez Ovalle will celebrate her 100th birthday on Friday, Oct. 11. She was born Oct. 11, 1919, in San Felipe, Guanajuato, Mexico, to Jesus T. and Josefa R. Sanchez.
Maria came to the United States with her family when she was five years old. She attended school in Driscoll through the fifth grade when she began working crops with her family on the ranch.
She grew up in El Rancho Colorado, where she met her one true love, Fernando Ovalle Sr. The couple was married on April 19, 1941, at Sacred Heart Church in Corpus Christi. Together they had 14 children, nine daughters and five sons: San Juanita (Janie) Benavides, Elvira (Tuffy) Carabajal, Francisca (Frances) Rios, Rosa Esquivel, Mercedez (Mercy) Garza, Fernando Ovalle Jr., Dolores (Lola) Rodriguez, Jesus (Jesse) Ovalle, Sr., Juan Manuel Ovalle, Sr., Daniel (Danny) Ovalle, Sr., Josephina (Bebe) Ovalle, Maria (Mary) Rodriguez, Rebecca (Becky) Ovalle, and Jose (Joe) Ramon Ovalle.
Maria recalled one of her favorite memories about her husband was how much they loved to dance, and it was a love that was passed down to their newest generations. He would often pull the car over on the side of the road and take her out of the car to dance. According to family members, when her husband talked about meeting her, he always said, “She was beautiful, and we fell in love.”
It was during the late 1950s when work in the fields brought them to Calhoun County around the Long Mott area. Together, they lived with their children, who also worked side by side with their parents and siblings.
Maria and her husband strived to teach their children a very strong work ethic. The oldest daughter, Janie, talked of how she hated working in the fields, and her mother knew it. Instead, she allowed Janie to stay home and do chores, and she would go to work in the fields. She was never afraid of hard work.
In 1972 the family made permanent residency on Highway 185 in Seadrift, where they continued to grow their family and home. Maria, along with most of her children, worked as a dishwasher and a cook at the Try Inn Café for Mr. and Mrs. Barkett. The Try Inn Café later became Barkett’s Restaurant, where many of Maria’s grandchildren worked until it closed. She worked as a cook until she later became a full-time housewife.
In 1982 Fernando had a concrete slab poured next to their home in Seadrift and called it “La Destapada.” It was built for Fernando to host a wedding for his granddaughter’s marriage so they would have a place for the family to dance. La Destapada became a regular gathering place for all family events over the years, and many of their grandchildren learned to dance on that concrete. The last event held at La Destapada was Maria’s 99th birthday fiesta last year.
Maria lived through some major changes in her life. She talked about when very few people had cars, homes were much smaller and clothes were made at home. She said that when her daughters wanted a new dress, they would look at magazines and show her what they wanted. As a self-taught seamstress, Maria would use the flour sacks that were made of cotton and make her daughters’ clothes. She said her daughters loved the clothes she made.
Today, Maria has 46 grandchildren, 112 great-grandchildren, and 92 great-great-grandchildren with four more on the way. Her secret to living 100 years is a well-balanced meal of “frijoles and corn tortillas” that kept her nourished through all the years of raising her family. She is currently a resident at the Port Lavaca Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She still takes every opportunity to visit her home in Seadrift. She is a lifelong Catholic and loves watching mass on television. Her favorite past time is visiting with her family and friends to hear about the latest grandchild, talking about old times or watching the Dallas Cowboys. Maria said she feels blessed to have made so many wonderful memories with her family and to have lived long enough to be part of five generations.
Spiritually, she says it has been God’s grace and the love of her family that have kept her going strong. A birthday celebration will be held starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the VFW Hall in Port Lavaca.