As various people chatted with Delores “Winnie” Parker Lewis at Alumnae Weekend on Aug. 27, 2023, one person commented, “That was before my time.”
“Nobody is before my time,” Winnie replied with a broad smile.
Winnie was the unexpected star attraction during the banquet, thanks to a couple of numbers associated with her – she is a 1941 graduate of Mount Saint Joseph Academy, who recently turned 100 years old.
She still drives, she’d like everyone to know.
The 100 or so alumnae on hand gave her an ovation to begin the festivities, and Mary Danhauer, A’71, secretary of the Alumnae Association, placed a corsage on her wrist. When the roll call was read after lunch, the crowd once again gave her a hearty round of applause, and she stood to blow them kisses.
Winnie grew up in Henderson, Ky., and still lives there today. She was taught by the Sisters of Charity in elementary school, but she desperately wanted to attend Mount Saint Joseph Academy.
“My mom said we couldn’t afford it. I said, ‘I’ll work to pay my tuition,’” Winnie said. “I thought I’d like to wear the uniforms.”
Her jobs at the Academy included working in the library under Sister Joseph Marie Williams, and cleaning a classroom for Sister Charles Emaline Clements.
“It seemed like I left a part of me here,” Winnie said. “I’ve been back for my 50th reunion (32 years ago), and a few times I drove friends here to look around.” She admitted she was a bit lost when she arrived on campus.
“I was looking for the other auditorium,” she said. The auditorium during her school days was in the Academy building that was deconstructed earlier this year.
When asked for a favorite memory during her Academy days, she recalled the students performing the operetta “The Mikado.”
“We got to wear the costumes,” she said. “Sister Cecilia (Payne) wanted me to try out, she said I had a wonderful voice. But I hate to get up in front of people. I did get a part. I sang two lines.”
Following her graduation in 1941, with World War II beginning, she worked in Evansville, Ind., making bullets for the war effort. Chrysler President K.T. Keller turned the Plymouth assembly plant in Evansville into a factory to make .45-caliber cartridges.
She married and had two daughters and a son. “In my 40s I was a travel agent. I traveled all over the world, with lots of cruises,” she said. “I retired from that after 20 years.”
Her daughter Sandra Lewis Ross attended the Academy for three years, but transferred to Holy Name High School in Henderson to graduate with her friends. Winnie’s granddaughter, Shaun Ross, also attended three years of the Academy, before transferring to Holy Name. Both of them are now deceased, as are her husband and son.
Her remaining daughter, Barbara Elpers, accompanied her to the reunion. She went to the Academy for one year. “I was a daddy’s girl,” she said, and preferred to be home working with the animals on their farm.
“My granddaughters still come to my house when they need something,” Winnie said. “We are a very close family.”
As the reunion wrapped up for another year, Winnie had a message for her fellow alumnae.
“See you next year,” she said.