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Louise Denton

Women’s History Month: A Touchmark Resident Feature Story

March is Women’s History Month and is a special time to celebrate and reflect on the accomplishments of women in our communities. Please enjoy this spotlight on Touchmark at Emerald Lake resident Louise Denton, who is celebrating her 98th birthday this month! 

Who was a strong female influence in your life? 

My Aunt Geraldine. She was kind and gracious and a great musician. She played the piano and organ and was a singer. I lived with her for about one year when I was about age 13, and then after I graduated high school at 17, I went back and lived with her again for about six years. This was until my wedding in 1949. They lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. She taught me manners, some music (it didn't take very well), how to set a table, etc. She was a refined and educated woman who helped me in multiple ways. 

Please tell us about your personal and professional background. 

I was raised near the Red River in Grayson County, Texas, on a small farm. We had no indoor plumbing or electrical until after WWII. I attended a small schoolhouse until 1941, then took a school bus for three years of high school about six miles away. There were not a lot of extracurricular activities available, but I did play basketball and we worked on the farm most days after school. It was my job to bring wood in to build the fire for heating or cooking. I had one younger brother who also helped with these chores. I graduated with a high school degree and then attended three-and-a-half semesters at Texas Christian University to get my degree in ranch management. 

Did you face any obstacles in your professional life and if so, how did you overcome them? 

I worked in banking at a small branch. There were four women and three older men. The women were largely behind the scenes or back of the house in supportive roles. The men held the leadership roles—in all the banks in the area (Shreveport). There was only one female vice president in the whole city; most women were secretaries, file clerks, or bank tellers. At the time, adding machines did not use electricity; we had to crank the machine after we put the figures in.  

I met my husband Jim when he came into the bank in his role as bank examiner in 1949. Throughout his lengthy career, he would be promoted to larger opportunities or bigger roles, and we moved all around Texas and lived in multiple cities including El Paso, Paris, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and then transferred to Dallas. In about 1970, we purchased a thousand-acre cattle ranch in Goliad County, Texas. This is where we had a 400-head of beef cattle. We raised and sold beef through a satellite sale; this allowed buyers to bid on cattle. 

What did you enjoy most about ranching? 

Ranching was hard work but extremely satisfying—being outdoors was joyful. Texas weather made it stressful: sometimes we needed rain after planting or got too much rain when we were harvesting hay. There were times I worked with temporary workers who did not speak much English, but we got through a big planting together and they did a great job.  

Another thing that was stressful were the times that we had to burn back the grass and weeds. A few times I worried I was going to burn down all of Texas. It was so dry sometimes, and I remember a neighbor's fire at their fence came a little too close for comfort. This lifestyle was a little isolating. My husband was working weekdays in Corpus Christi while I was out on the ranch by myself with a ranch hand and the ranch foreman. I had a good friend nearby, but we were working all day long. I enjoyed a monthly beef conference at different area ranches, but we did not have a lot of social activities or gatherings because it was a 24-hour job! 

What are the other accomplishments in your life of which you are most proud? 

Before starting ranching, I enjoyed volunteering at the hospital for the suicide prevention hotline (we organized the first chapter of Suicide Prevention in Corpus Christi in 1968). I’ve been a lifelong member of First Methodist Church. Jim and I raised our son Tom as a Texan despite being born in Louisiana. He attended Texas Tech University. He recently turned 72 and he has 40 years in the banking industry. (Editor’s note: between the three Dentons, there are 100+ years combined banking experience). I now have three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Jim and I were married 59 years before he passed away in 2008. 

What activities do you enjoy now that you’re retired? 

Birthday parties and luncheons with my friends. I belong to a coffee group, and we have been meeting for 20 years at Market Street for coffee followed by lunch. These women are amazing friends, from all over and all walks of life, with many different backgrounds and careers. My hobbies include beading necklaces and jewelry, oil painting, needlepoint projects, playing tennis, and sewing my own clothes. Previously, I was always the youngest in my circle of friends and groups and now, with my 98th birthday this month, I am the oldest in all the groups. I was a part of many social and activity clubs in McKinney and have lifelong friends and memories from them—book clubs, newcomer clubs, and ladies' social clubs.  

I have met a few famous faces. Through Jim's work, I met Lady Bird Johnson. She came to Texas to dedicate Padre Island. The White House called me—they needed me to help her find a beauty salon during her visit. She and I had lunch together. I met the Texas Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn when I was about 13. I saw Bonnie and Clyde—the infamous duo—when we were attending a fish fry at eight years old. We were enjoying a barbecue party and they pulled up to the group and asked how to cross the river in their car. They were caught by law enforcement about 10 days later. 

What is a piece of advice you would give to women today who are attempting to break barriers in their careers? 

  • Have good self-esteem. 

  • No matter what other people say, it does not make it true. 

  • Have a goal you are always working toward. 

  • Always tell the truth—a lie is hard to remember and repeat. Truth comes easy. 

Thank you, Louise, for sharing your amazing story and experiences with us!