Mary Tankursley beamed a big smile as Ann's Haven VNA staff members placed a colorful cake decorated with X's and O's on a small table near her chair. "I want to say thank you because it's so wonderful," she said.
It was clear that Tankursley's thank-you covered much more than just the cake and the gift bag that staff members brought along Monday when they dropped by to help the Denton resident celebrate her 110th birthday.
Ann's Haven staff members have been visiting Tankursley since 2007, and she obviously feels close to the nurses, aides and others who have helped provide supportive care. Born in Caviness, Tankursley spent most of her life in nearby Paris.
After graduating from business school, she moved to Dallas to find a job, and it was there that she met her future husband, Onnie, and the couple's first daughter, Maxine, was born. They later moved to Paris, where a second daughter, Carolyn, was born.
Mary lost her husband in 1968, but she remained in her Paris home until a few years ago, when she moved to Denton to live with her daughter Maxine Shadle. The move wasn't easy for her mother, Shadle said.
"She was leaving behind many, many years of treasured friendships," Shadle said. "She was rooted in that place. They were wonderful to her there. "But in 2006 she called and said, 'I think I probably ought not to be living alone,' and she moved here."
Tankursley continued to pursue a career through the years, her daughters recalled, something that few women did at the time. "She was a pioneer liberated working woman," said daughter Carolyn Allen, a resident of Atlanta, Texas. "She did secretarial work. She would be considered an executive secretary today.
"She was good at what she did." Tankursley also worked as a proofreader for the Lamar County Echo, a weekly newspaper based in Paris, Shadle said. Tankursley said she still reads newspapers as much as she can. "I like to know what's going on in this world," she said. "Things have changed so much."
Tankursley said she especially enjoys reading editorials: "I look forward to that." Shadle said she helps her mother keep track of birthdays by writing them on a calendar so that cards can be sent to Tankursley's family, which now includes eight grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. "I address the cards, but she still signs them," Shadle said.