The Norman Transcript

Local news

September 15, 2008

Still going strong: 98-year-old still taking care of herself

At 98, Effie Heil enjoys her flowers, her pets and watching soap operas and sports. "A little dizziness" has kept her from going to church as often as she would like, but she is able to take care of herself in her own home.

Born Aug. 5, 1910, in BeBe, Texas, Heil was just 18 when she answered an ad in the San Antonio paper. A Navy chaplain and his wife were looking for someone to live with them and help care for their child, a boy then 2 years old.

"I was with that family for 40 years," she says, recalling the happiness of travels and seeing the children grow.

The Navy moved the chaplain around, and they were living in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941, when bombs fell on Pearl Harbor. "I remember that we seldom saw planes early in the morning ... these planes were flying real low. Mrs. Johnson called a friend who told her that Pearl Harbor had been bombed."

Mr. Johnson, as she refers to the chaplain, was at sea on the USS Chester. "His ship was hit, and he saw boys that he had worked with lay dead on the deck."

She looks back fondly on the years they lived in Long Beach, Calif. "When I had time, I enjoyed strolling on the beach." She also enjoyed two years in Panama where Chaplain Johnson served the submarine base. After he retired from the Navy, they resided in Kingfisher where he served a church.

Heil settled in Norman 39 years ago, and began cleaning houses and cleaning at sororities and fraternities. "I walked all over Norman to get to jobs," she said, and worked until she was just short of 80 years old.

Watching sports has always been a favorite activity and she keeps up with college and professional teams. When pressed, she admits to a special feeling for the Dallas Cowboys.

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