Eugenie Morton looks at a picture of herself that was taken 79 years ago.

Lauren Ricks/Athens Review
Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Eugenie “Gene” Morton has seen a lot in her time on Earth. Those who know her know this: she doesn’t seem ready to see any of the days ahead sitting down.

Gene, who celebrated her 98th birthday earlier this month, breaks the stereotype of someone who is nearing 100 years old.

She dances — “round dancing,” as she calls it.

“I used to belong to the Square Dancing Club, but it broke up,” said Gene, who lives outside Eustace.

She also plays 42 as often as a group of four friends can get together. And she continues to take her seat faithfully at the First Baptist Church in Eustace.

Family and friends threw a birthday party in her honor on March 16 and nearly 100 people attended, according to her daughter-in-law, Ginger Morton.

Gene was born Eugenie Violet York on March 17, 1910, in Pleasant Glade near Eustace.

She remembers when she was seven years old and saw her first airplane.

“I couldn’t imagine what it was that was flying, but it was making a funny sound. I thought it was alive,” Gene said. A year later she saw an automobile for the first time.

When she was a child she helped make the brooms for the family business. Her parents were Charles Nathan and Jessine Elizabeth York. They had eight children, three girls and five boys. He was a broom maker and he would travel around the area to sell them, mainly in Canton and Terrell.

“I did everything but put them on the handle,” Gene said.

She grew up on a working farm and said it affected her tastes. She doesn’t eat meat very often because of her experiences with animals on the farm.

“I love fruits and vegetables,” Gene said, “and I don’t eat sweets.”

Dances were common events in her household. Her parents would hold dances at their house every week.

“Mom would have us move all the furniture out of one room and would lay a blanket in the corner for us,” Gene said. “Papa was a good dancer.”

She graduated from Eustace High School as the salutatorian of her class. Her graduating class had two girls and one boy.

“They said to choose between being valedictorian or the lead in the play. I chose the play,” she said.

After graduation she enrolled in North State Teachers College in Denton. She boarded with a friend named “Mugsy,” the mother of a former teacher. She left after two years and moved back home.

“I thought one day and I didn’t know what I would do with a music degree,” Gene said. “I wanted to be a gospel singer.”

She married Jess Morton at the age of 24 and they raised eight children.

The couple farmed 200 acres, which was his inheritance. His father had 700 or 800 acres that was divided among his children. Mr. Morton died in 1981 of cancer.

She later went to work for Jan’s Hallmark Shoppe, which was owned by her daughter-in-law, when she was in her 70s. She worked there for approximately five years before the business sold.

She then went to work for Town East Gardens for five years. “I got kinda lonesome out here by myself with nothing to do,” Gene said.

As she nears 100, Gene hasn’t yet found a stopping point. You can still find her at the Senior Citizens Center every Wednesday night, “round dancing” her heart out.

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