Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 14, 2013

Birthday Diva

Samuels party brings together friends of every age

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — At 85, Babbette Samuels hasn’t slowed down.

She still keeps up the Jewish cemetery, hauling water hoses and trimming shrubs. She maintains her own yard, including an impressive array of azalea bushes. She’s involved in community theater, goes to the Y each morning and is one of a small number of people who attend every city council meeting.

On Thursday, the octogenarian dynamo was celebrated with a birthday party at the Warehouse Living Arts Center.

Mary Williams’ children are the same ages as Samuels’ children. As young mothers, they socialized and sympathized together.

“She was so good with Camp Fire program,” Williams said. “She’s always given 100 percent.”

Sue Cook’s children were also contemporaries with Samuels’ children.

“I’ve known Babbette since we moved here. We raised our sons together,” Cook said. “She’s so special. She keeps up with you. She’s a darling lady.”

Five years ago, Babbette’s birthday was celebrated with an official proclamation. Rick Herron, a former neighbor of Samuels, helped arrange that little get-together of a couple hundred people on the city hall steps.

“She’s been a consistent and endearing friend over the years,” Herron said. “She’s probably the closest thing to family I’ve got in town.”

A number of people at Thursday’s gather recalled not just Babbette’s contributions over the years, but her husband’s clothing shop downtown. Jane Gordon first met Babbette at P. Samuel’s but they became friends over the years, running into each other frequently in the grocery and other places.

“She’s so sweet,” Gordon said.

Billie Carroll said she’s known Samuels for about 30 or 40 years. “She’s just so active in everything,” Carroll said. “If you do anything, you know Babbette.”

Jeff Whitehead knows Samuels from her work on the Parks Board, primarily. “She’s known my family for years,” he said. “She sends me a birthday card every year.”

At just 32, Winzer Van Delden is likely one of Samuels’ younger friends, but Van Delden dismissed the age difference. They work out each morning together at the Y, having met through their mutual volunteer work at the Warehouse. Van Delden worked on costumes for “Mame,” while Samuels was in the chorus.

“I look forward to seeing her,” Van Delden said. “She’s a doll.”

Brad Cook has known Samuels all his life, he estimated. “She’s an icon for Corsicana,” he said. “She’s a sweetheart.”

New to Corsicana, Gloria Garcia met Samuels while both were working on the cemetery commission, then Samuels was a patient at the dental office where Garcia worked.

“My experiences in life in the United States is learning from older people,” Garcia said. “She was one of my mentors.”

Samuels spent Thursday afternoon visiting with each person who stopped by the party, wearing a little paper pink tiara that stated “Birthday Diva.”

“To me, every day is a birthday,” she said. “I’m alive.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com