Over the course of their friendship, Toni Hyman has sent Summie Thomas more than 100 newspaper clippings.
Hyman would carefully cut out stories that she thought Thomas would enjoy, like whenever there was mention of Thomas’ brother, Arthur Whittington, who was a running back for the Oakland Raiders.
These small and regular signs of friendship were one of dozens of reasons Thomas came to celebrate her friend’s 100th birthday Saturday at a party at First United Methodist Church. United Methodist Women organized the party for Hyman, their longtime member and former president.
Thomas, 83, said her friend has “a big heart of love. She just loved all the time.”
Hyman was born in Seguin on Oct. 21, 1919.
“Life was so different then,” Hyman said, recalling that when she was very young, her family’s home was heated by a wood-burning stove.
“I was listening to the radio when (Charles) Lindbergh landed in Paris, we had a little radio, and also when Orson Welles scared the world with his story,” she said, referencing the 1938 radio broadcast of a play adaptation of “The War of the Worlds.” The broadcast was said to have terrorized some Americans who didn’t realize they were listening to a play, not the news.
Hyman moved to Victoria with her husband and three sons in 1961. Hyman’s husband died in 1963, shortly after their move, and Hyman raised their three sons while working at Devereux Victoria. Today, Hyman lives in Victoria with her son Rob Hyman.
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is a nonprofit with campuses across the country that provide a range of programs for adults and children. Devereux Victoria has a residential program to care for “emotionally and cognitively affected children” between the ages of 5 and 14, according to the nonprofit’s website. Hyman said she was proud of her work at the nonprofit, which helped adults and kids to reach their full potential, and treated all of the children who lived there with respect.
Hyman said a recent Victoria Advocate article, which reported that Devereux Victoria would provide short-term shelter for unaccompanied migrant children, reminded her of the period when Devereux housed refugee children from the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. She remembered that about 20 Afghan children came to Devereux for short-term care, many of them badly burned, missing limbs or otherwise injured in the atrocities inflicted on civilians during the war.
Mary Stafford Bailey, who worked at Devereux with Hyman, said her friend was known for her deft hand at organizing events to celebrate the Devereux community. In 2002, Hyman organized a reunion for the adults who lived at Devereux in the 1960s, bringing together as many of the former residents as possible back to Victoria.
Hyman would also plan luncheons when Stafford Bailey and her late husband would visit Victoria after they had moved to another state.
“She loved the idea of a party, she loved the idea of organizing and she just was good at it,” Stafford Bailey said. “Those were our family, you know, Devereux was really very much a family.”
Hyman was similarly involved in her birthday party Saturday. Nancy Farris, who helped organize the party, said she and other members of United Methodist Women had planned the party to include all of their friend’s requests. There were plates of Hyman’s signature chocolate snack, made with milk chocolate, pralines, and cranberry raisins, photos of Hyman with family and friends over the years, and sheets where guests could write notes to the guest of honor.
Outside of work, Hyman was dedicated to her church community at First United Methodist Church.
“One of my favorite memories is Toni here in the kitchen,” Joyce Brown said. “I can see her standing in the kitchen, working.”
Even now, she keeps up to date with church bulletins and she finds a way to contribute to events that she’s unable to attend.
Hyman also stays involved in the church through its homebound communion program.
“My life motto has always been: my faith, my family, and my friends,” Hyman said Saturday, where she celebrated with all three of her life’s pillars.