A large crowd of well-wishers converged on the lobby of the downtown Citizens National Bank on Friday morning to say “happy 99th birthday” to Waxahachie icon Mattie Borders.

Descriptive terms used by the crowd to illustrate the life and influence of the long-time community leader included challenging, involved, inspiring, always available and a participator.

Robbie Frazier, who was adopted by Borders, explained the impact the educator and entrepreneur had on her life.

“I have been with her all my life,” Frazier said. “She instilled things about life into me – how to treat people – general things like morals and values that helped me to move forward in my life.”

Margaret and Rufus Venters have been friends with Borders for more than 30 years.

“We came here 30 years ago and worked with her at Oaklawn School,” Margaret said. “Mattie has always been very involved in everything, both community-wise and school-wise.” 

Community leader and one of Border’s former school students, Alfred Mims, described her as an icon.

“She was known as a school teacher and was proprietor of the Borders and James Funeral Parlor,” said Mims, who also presented Borders with a plaque from Bethesda Educational Foundation. “One of her favorite events each year was the annual wrapping of the Maypole at Oaklawn School.”

It’s inspiring just to see her here today – she was always challenging to all her classes and always demanded excellence. She has always been involved in city and county events – that’s who Mattie Borders is. She’s a role model, good natured, always making herself available and is a great participator.”

Mayor N.B. “Buck” Jordan kicked the ceremonies off recognizing various community leaders and honoring Borders.

“Our community has been blessed to have a lady like Mattie Borders,” he said. “You name it and she has been involved – we’re proud to set this day aside to help her celebrate her 99th birthday – she’s a great lady.”

A significant event was when Dinah Weables, the namesake of the Dinah Weable Breast Cancer Foundation, represented the office of state Rep. Jim Pitts in reading a declaration passed by the Texas House of Representatives to honor Borders.

“She is an institution in Waxahachie and she is also a breast cancer survivor like I am,” Weables said. “In fact, she was recognized at our Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon last year as the oldest to survive breast cancer. This year, we’re going to do something very special for her.”

Melissa Ballard of CNB and representing the United Way of West Ellis County made a presentation of $1,000 to Waxahachie CARE in honor of Borders, who was the first director of the charitable organization when it was founded in 1983.

378th District Judge Joe Grubbs, former county and district attorney, commented on the impact Borders has made on the community.

“She has helped so many people back before we even had a Waxahachie CARE organization,” he said. “She has always contributed to our community.”

The Rev. Shank H. Robinson, pastor of New Unity Baptist Church of DeSoto, and former pastor of Border’s church, Samaria Baptist Church of Waxahachie, noted the influence Borders was to his life.

“Samaria was my very first pastorate. I was single when I was here and, back in those days, folks thought that it wasn’t good for a pastor to not be married,” he said. “Well, I started dating a young lady in the church, Lady Diane, who was Sam George’s daughter. I recall one day when Mrs. Mattie came into my office and she said, ‘Reverend, I want to know if you love that girl, because if you don’t, you need to leave her alone.’ ”

Robinson continued that he and Lady Diane, who passed away from cancer in 1985, did marry.

Border’s present pastor, the Rev. James Wiley, offered his thoughts on the community leader.

“She’s a person with a very unique personality. She is considered the mother of our church and she treats everyone there as her children,” he said. “There’s nothing she won’t do to help anyone – she’s been there to help our church through struggles and problems. She’s a beacon light and a storehouse of wisdom – and you know, this younger generation calls that ‘old school’ but it’s wisdom.  I’m happy to have the opportunity to honor this lady, who has always been a mother to me.”

After several minutes of friends standing and giving testament to what Borders means to their lives, the honoree herself capped off the celebration with some words.

“I thank you for everything you’ve done for me here today,” she said. “I never would have thought this would be like this today. I want to leave you with one scripture verse, found in Psalm 71:18, which says, ‘Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.’ ”

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.