CORPUS CHRISTI — “Frankie and Jonny were lovers,” Helen Southern sang an old folk song and she played her guitar. “Lordy, how they could love.”
Southern said her love for music was deep rooted.
“All of the boys in that family was very talented,” Southern said. They all played an instrument and daddy played a fiddle and he played for square dances.”
She said her daddy also played the guitar and harmonica.
“When I was ten or eleven years old, he put the guitar in my lap one day and he said 'You’re gonna learn to play this because I want you to play with me when I practice on the fiddle.'”
She was not only a musician for many years: Southern served in the Navy for two.
“It’s not everyday that you get to meet a World War II veteran that’s a woman,” said Art Smith, Southern’s friend of five years.
The two met in Rockport when he went to help fix one of her vintage guitars.
“Right now, my voice has changed cause of old age and I think I’m gonna be a pretty good blues singer,” Southern said.
Smith, along with other friends and staff at her home at Garden Estates, threw her a party on Thursday to celebrate her 100th birthday.
There was even a special guest.
“It’s an honor to be here and celebrate with you,” Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo said as she gave Southern a hug.
With many talents and skills, Southern worked at the Pentagon under research and development.
“I was given top secret clearance,” she said.
She’s been a secretary and a real estate agent.
“My husband was a builder,” she said, “We lived in Port Aransas about seven years and then we were in Rockport about 30 years all together.”
She said she even helped start the Corpus Christi Folk Music Society.
“We would have a hootenanny on the t-head,” Southern said.
“Today, somebody wished me a happy birthday and many more and I said ‘Don’t wish me any more, I don’t know if I wanna live many more years,” she said.
“I’m encouraging her to write a book because she really does have a lot to share,” Smith said.
A book of a vibrant life everyone could tear a page out of.
“You gotta keep moving,” Southern said. “So many people will stay on one job for a lifetime even if they don’t like it. A person has to enjoy the work they do.”
Sound advice from a Southern lady.