Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Postal Family Matriarch celebrates 90 years

Evelyn Romero Kirby was born in New Iberia, Louisiana on March 21, 1933. She was joined by almost 60 family members and friends Saturday to celebrate her 90th birthday at Robert's Steak House and Meat market in Orange. Evelyn and her late husband, Harold Wayne Kirby, have five children-Susan Kirby Tomlin and husband Larry; Peggy Kirby Smith and husband Gary; David Kirby and wife Irene a.k.a. Winkie; Mark Kirby and wife Sylvia; and Joel Kirby and wife Susan. She also has 10 grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and 11 step-great-grandchildren.

Kirby was one of 11 children. Evelyn was around the age of 4 or 5 when her mother passed away.

"I didn't know my mother. I have a memory of a woman. I held her dress, but her face I can't remember," said Evelyn. "I've got a picture of her I got from my daddy."

"I lived in New Iberia for a little while but most of my life was in Port Arthur," said Evelyn. "I walked to school about a mile and ½."

Her dad moved the family to Port Arthur and went to work for the city of Port Arthur when she was around 14 or 15.

"I would have been in the 8th grade," said Evelyn. She had to quit school to take care of her father and two younger male siblings. "I didn't have a mother so my daddy made me quit school because I was older. I did the washing. I did the cooking. That's where I learned to cook."

She married when she was 17.

"She had me 10 months later," said her eldest daughter, Susan. That was in 1951. "Then five years later she had the last one, Joel."

They moved to Orangefield in 1962, and lived on Oilla Road in the same house until all the children were grown and gone.

"I started 6th grade there," said Susan. All five of their children graduated from Orangefield high school.

Both Evelyn and Harold Wayne worked for the United States Postal Service along with four of their five children. Evelyn and the girls worked in the orange post office while Harold Wayne and the boys worked in the Port Arthur post office.

"She worked there for 28 years," said Susan. "I was already grown and gone she went to work."

Harold Wayne started working in Port Arthur when he was about 22.

Mark Kirby was the lone wolf that went to work at Texaco.

"I've got more sense than that," quipped Mark when asked why he didn't go to the post office.

"He wouldn't have made a week anyway," joked family friend Gerald LeLeux.

"I probably wouldn't," said Mark. "I took the test three times."

"Daddy always said he had the best job," said Susan.

Family vacations, when the kids were growing up, were limited to trips to Rio Frio in an old rambler station wagon to visit an uncle and help him build a house.

"We didn't own no suitcases, everything we owned was in boxes when we went up there," said Susan.

When asked why she packed up the entire house when traveling, Evelyn replied, "I didn't know what I needed. With kids you never know what you need."

Susan recalled one such trip, "I wouldn't call them mountains, I would call it a real steep hill and the Rambler would not make it up so we had to unpack the Rambler and all five of us kids and mom."

Harold then drove the car up the hill. Evelyn and the kids had to tote all the boxes up the hill and reload the car.

Joel told of another time that it broke down and a man picked them up, carried them all the way to Rio Frio, took their father back to the car to get it fixed and made sure they were taken care of.

"It was over a hundred miles," said Joel. He also recounted a storm blowing the tent away and they had to retreat to a cave. "I was the youngest they shoved me in the back."

Susan recounted the Sunday routine when they were little.

"On Sunday morning when she had to get us five kids ready for church, daddy would get dressed, he'd go in the car and honk the horn waiting for mom to get all the five kids ready," she said. "He never helped. He wasn't like the daddies nowadays. It was all left up to the woman and she did it all."

Susan said when they returned from church, her mom would cook a huge pot of oatmeal and serve it with toast.

After all the kids graduated the Kirbys sold the original house on Oilla and built another house about a block away on an adjacent road. Later, they bought a ranch in Lometa, Texas.

"She worked right alongside daddy building fences and tending the cows," said Susan. The ranch was in central Texas about 80 miles from Austin.

After Harold died, Evelyn sold the ranch and moved next to Susan.

Evelyn now regrets her decision to sell the ranch.

"I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I love that place," she said. "It's over 300 acres."

Susan, Peggy and Joel still live in the Orangefield school district. Mark and David have moved to the Canyon Lake area near Austin.

"She still drives and does yard work," said Susan. "She's the last of the Romero children. All her other brothers and sisters have passed away."

Susan said she believes her mother has completed everything on her bucket list. When she was about 85 her son-in-law, Larry Tomlin, took her for a ride on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

"My husband never had a bike. The kids had some small ones and I just wanted to ride," said Evelyn. "I said, 'Let's go.'"

How does she spend her time these days?

"I like to read. I work out in the yard when the weather's pretty. I have me a flower garden," She said. "If I can get on the lawnmower, I'll mow my grass." She said the mower is currently broke, so her son-in-law has cut it the last few times.

"I'm nothing in particular," she said. "I'm just a woman that lives by myself." She said the secret to living to the ripe old age of 90 was just "God's help."

 

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