Fort Worth

Living to 100 years old is quite a feat - so how did this Texas woman get to 108?

When Myrtle Lewis-Keeton was born on April 11, 1911, the Boston Red Sox had not yet broken ground on Fenway Park.

Howard Taft was president of the United States.

Eugene Burton Ely had only three months earlier become the first person to land an airplane on a ship (the USS Pennsylvania stationed at San Francisco Bay).

Today, Lewis-Keeton lives with her son, Wayne “Spanky” Lewis, 71, at his home in south Fort Worth.

“Good living,” Lewis-Keeton replies, when asked her secret to longevity. “I honored my father and my mother.”

She was born in Waco but moved to Fort Worth when she was 18 years old.

She raised two sons as a single mom, sometimes working three jobs at a time to ensure the boys had sharp clothes to wear and good food to eat.

On Saturday, about 50 friends and relatives will gather at her son’s home for a private birthday celebration. Although Lewis-Keeton turned 108 years old on April 11, unfortunately her birthday included a brief hospital stay.

But she is now recovered, and ready for the party.

“I just want to be surprised,” she said.

Lewis-Keeton went to all of her son’s high school basketball games. On one occasion, she rode a bus to Dallas in a snowstorm to catch a game.

Her son was a member of the 1965 state champion I.M. Terrell basketball team. During the days of segregation, I.M. Terrell was a school for African-American students from all across Tarrant County.

Many of the players on that I.M. Terrell basketball team juggled school classes and basketball practices while also working to make ends meet for their families.

“She told me, you don’t have to work,” her son said. “You’re going to put all your effort into being the best basketball player you can be, and earn a scholarship.”

That 1965 state champion basketball team was coached by Robert Hughes, who would go on to become the winningest high school boys’ basketball coach in the country. Hughes is a member of the national Basketball Hall of Fame.

For many years, Lewis-Keeton ran one of the first nursery schools in Fort Worth’s African-American community, Tommy Tucker, as well as two other schools.

She worked into her late 70s, even managing the day-care center at Dunbar High School’s adult learning center. She is still known as “Miss Myrt” to many former students.

Her oldest son, Nathaniel, died about 40 years ago.

At the age of 80, Lewis-Keeton married longtime friend John Keeton.

But before Keeton, 78, popped the question, he went to Lewis-Keeton’s son, then in his 40s, and asked for his permission.

“He told me, ‘That’s the way I was brought up,’ “ her son remembered.

In 2011, for her 100th birthday, relatives presented Lewis-Keeton with a citation from then-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Keeton died many years ago. But Lewis-Keeton is still going strong.

She still enjoys watching movies on television — especially westerns, and basketball games.

Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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