When Tomasita Chavez of Beeville recently learned that her granddaughter is due to give birth this spring, she knew what she had to do.
“That kind of triggered her, ‘OK, gotta make a quilt for the baby,’” said Tomasita’s youngest daughter, Lindsey, Jan. 27.
Tomasita insisted upon sewing a quilt for the baby – whom the doctor says is a boy. The hand-stitched baby-sized quilt, which has a Dutch boy-inspired design, was entered in the adult homemaking competition of this year’s Bee County Junior Livestock and Homemakers Show. Tomasita’s entry won third place.
Sewing has been an interest the 104-year-old has enjoyed since she was a young child. In addition to sewing many quilts of varying sizes over the years, Tomasita also sewed clothes for her four daughters when they were babies.
“She used to sew by sewing machine, but quilting she always did by hand,” said Tomasita’s eldest daughter, Mary Jane Stark.
But like all good things, her needle and thread days are coming to an end. Perhaps the quilt for Tomasita’s great-grandson represents the last page in her decades-long legacy of spreading love through creativity.
“I can’t sew anymore because I can’t feel the needle in my hand,” Tomasita said.
In addition to sewing, Tomasita also likes to paint, make bejeweled crosses and color pictures in adult coloring books. Her fondness of the northern cardinal has resulted in Tomasita amassing a collection of quilts, paintings and sculptures depicting the species often referred to as “redbirds.”
But Tomasita is not one to stay indoors all day. Mary Jane, who lives across the street, said that the warm daytime temperatures Jan. 26 lured the spry centenarian outside to work in her yard.
“I was outside yesterday pulling weeds,” Tomasita said.
Despite her advanced age, Tomasita still is quite active. Her daughters say their mother still accompanies them on regular shopping trips, for which she quickly gets ready to head out.
“She doesn’t use a walker or a cane,” Stark said.
In fact, it was only two years ago that Tomasita’s daughters decided it was time for their mother to stop driving, as she still drove herself to church every Sunday.
“She never had any tickets,” Stark said. “She had one wreck and it wasn’t her fault. Somebody ran a red light and hit her.”
Tomasita’s life began in the Clareville community south of Beeville in 1916, when she was born the second of six daughters. Of that family, only Tomasita and her 92-year-old sister, Lily Ramon of Beeville, remain.
In 1949, she married Olegario Chavez and the family lived in Walla Walla, Washington, until his death in 2004. Ever industrious, Tomasita’s employment included running a restaurant and working for the state health and welfare department.
After moving back to Texas, she worked into her early 90s as a caregiver to some of the area’s elderly residents.
“I always worked,” Tomasita said.
With all that she has experienced and seen in her lifetime, one might wonder what else Tomasita would like to do.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I think it was plenty already. As long as I’m healthy, I wish I could do more, but I eat and sleep pretty good.”
Tomasita likes to eat a little bit of everything, but she regrets no longer being able to eat fried chicken because she has lost some of her teeth.
When the summer comes, Tomasita hopes to work in the yard. Stark said her mother still starts the push mower and cuts the grass.
Tomasita also has another wish. She would like a Manx kitten for her 105th birthday. Cats of this breed, which originated on the Isle of Man, often are born with a short tail or no tail at all.
“My birthday is coming soon, in March, and what I wish for is a little kitty with no tail.”