In tribute: Friend: Traveler enjoyed life

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

Thelma Middleton loved to travel, her friends said, and on one trip she met a fortune teller who told her she’d live to be 50. She decided she wanted to live to be 100, and she did.

The Clovis centenarian died June 25.

She was born in Gatesville, Texas, in 1907 and moved to Clovis in 1931, where she worked in Stone’s Department Store. She married Earle Growdon in 1945, and they owned a restaurant in Melrose.

After Growdon died, she married Don Middleton of Clovis in 1967.

Dorothy Pruitt said her friend traveled often with Don, visiting places such as England and Hawaii.

“She enjoyed her life so much, everything was like a highlight,” Pruitt said. “She loved to laugh. She just enjoyed life to the fullest.”

Pruitt said she knew Middleton for about 30 years from the Order of the Eastern Star, of which Middleton served four times as a past matron in the Melrose chapter. She was also a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“I went by to see her every morning after her husband died to bring her her newspaper,” Pruitt said. “She always enjoyed the surprise birthday parties we gave her in later years.”

The Rev. Cecil Bunch, a former preaching minister at 21st Street Church of Christ, said Middleton gave to many charities such as a children’s home in Portales. Bunch visited Middleton once a week during the five years she lived in the Laurel Plains nursing home.

“She sold me her car, because she couldn’t drive it any more,” Bunch said. “It was a 1996 Oldsmobile. I paid $5,000 for it. She loved that car, wanted me to have it. She wanted to give it to me but I wanted to pay for it. I’m still driving it.”

Bunch said Middleton wrote part of her funeral sermon before she passed away from an old sermon he gave about grace. She also wrote a prayer for Bunch to read.

“Give me strength to continue in every good work, and faith to believe that I shall reap. If I faint not, at least may I enjoy the blessings thou hast prepared for those who love thee,” Middleton wrote as she grew closer to death.

“She told Cecil that if she lived to be 100, it would be his fault because he told her she’d live to be that long,” said Bunch’s wife, Jo. “She never complained, she was always happy.”