A pinch-hit home run was far from the highlight of Evelyn Pace's life. It was, however, one that she truly cherishes during her first full day with a triple-digit age.
Joey Gallo sent the first pitch he saw in his first-ever All-Star Game plate appearance into the right-field stands on Tuesday, July 9. The home run by the Texas Rangers first baseman in the 90th annual MLB All-Star Game, held at Progressive Field in Cleveland, gave the American League a 4-1 lead and served as the game-winning run.
The round-tripper also sent 100-year-old Pace into a rousing round of applause. After all, she loves her Texas Rangers, faith and education — and rarely misses an opportunity to watch, praise or teach.
Pace is also one of the latest Ellis County residents to join the century club, as she celebrated her 100th birthday with about 250 of her closest friends and family members on July 6 at the Waxahachie Civic Center.
"I never participated in anything that would be against my health like smoking, drugs or any of that stuff," said Pace when asked for her secret to 100. "I've just always been involved one way or the other in teaching, counseling students. That was my love, counseling students."
She added, "My faith has gotten me this far. I have been a Christian all of my life."
Pace was born July 8, 1919, to sharecropper parents in Baylor County, Texas, which is northwest of Fort Worth and southwest of Wichita Falls.
On that farm is where Pace said she first felt and found her religious calling.
According to her daughter, Janis, Pace tells the story to have occurred at the age of six.
"After her brother and sisters had left for school, she would go out to the shady side of the red barn and preach to anything that would listen — chickens, guineas, sticks," Janis stated. "One of the times when she was really praying and talking to the 'stick congregation,' she felt a most unusual feeling, later realizing that it was the anointing from the Lord."
Her daughter explained that Pace then saw a "person dressed in glowing white" that hovered over the imaginary congregation. She quickly ran into the home to tell her mother of the experience and was told, "honey, you have seen an angel."
That occurrence ultimately carved Pace's religious and educational path.
Pace later graduate from Seymour High School and, following two years as a secretary, she found her way to Shield of Faith Bible School in Fort Worth. She made that move with $30 in her pocket, which was used for tuition and two uniforms.
The college rebranded in 1940, Pace's sophomore year, as Central Bible School and then again ahead of her junior year to Southwestern Bible School.
Pace eventually received a bachelor's degree in religious studies from Southwestern, as well as a Bachelor in Education from Texas Wesleyan and a Master of Education from TCU.
After her collegiate endeavors, Pace taught at Southwestern High School, Bible School and Junior College and spent her summers hosting revivals. She spent the better part of two decades as an evangelist in Texas, Mississippi and New Mexico, preaching in churches of all sizes and varieties.
Pace was also ordained in the Assemblies of God in 1948, during which she served as the interim pastor for a church in Grand Falls.
Voice problems later led Pace to transition into teaching and psychology, ultimately leading her to Ellis County and a fifth-grade classroom at Travis Elementary in Ennis.
She also taught at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie for 15 years. And, for 17 years, she was involved in the countywide system for counseling that was over 21 schools — which included all county districts besides Ennis and Waxahachie ISDs. She later was a counselor for Midlothian ISD.
During her time in education, Pace was also tasked with assisting school districts through the trials and tribulations related to integration.
"Ferris was one of the easiest ones because I had a principal there that was Black and she knew what needed to be done and she helped me," Pace recalled. "But little by little and school by school, I had to manage getting them integrated."
And manage she did.
As Pace sat at one of the 18 tables donning an angel and roses during her 100th birthday party, she was given a certificate of congratulation from the general council of Assemblies of God to commemorate the occasion.
"I can't believe that I'm this old," Pace said. "I'm the last original member of my family. I never thought about birthdays. They just come and went. So what? And this one just slipped up on me. Honest to goodness. I can't accept the fact that I'm that old."