It’s not such an impressive number, standing there alone – 108. But, in the context of Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Teresa (Slavin) Reed’s life, it is very impressive indeed. You see, on December 6, 2010, the Nation’s oldest member marked completion of her 108th year. CPN Vice Chairman Linda Capps and a host of Slavin family members journeyed to Wheeler, in the Texas panhandle, on Saturday, November 6, 2010 for an early birthday party.

When Teresa Slavin was born, on December 6, 1902, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i was still 39 years and one day away. The Brothers Wright had not yet flown at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; Teresa was a year and 11 days old when that happened. Oklahoma statehood was still almost six years in the future when she was born. Manned flight to the Moon was still more than 66 years away.  

Teresa dedicated her lifework to ensuring that young people were prepared to take on the world, earn their spot in it. She taught in the Pampa, Texas schools until she was persuaded to retire at age 70. But, she was not through, heading off to the Southwest to teach on an Indian reservation.  

Teresa was still driving the streets of Pampa at age 103. She continued living alone in her home there until she was 105. She now resides in the Wheeler Nursing Center.

As she honored Teresa Reed for her accomplishments and longevity, Vice Chairman Capps said, “I just wanted to have the opportunity to tell me how much I appreciate your allowing me to be a part of this celebration. I appreciate all the Slavins and all the Pearls.”

Vice Chairman Capps then presented Teresa Reed a Pendleton blanket, explaining, “A blanket symbolizes a lot because Native Americans didn’t have much years ago. But, if they had a blanket, they  … had a place to sleep, protection from the elements, and an item useful for many other purposes.”

“This is a wonderful bunch, I tell you,” Reed said, in thanks for the party and gifts. “To have all these people come (is wonderful). I just wish I knew all of them better. I want to thank all of you fort being here. And, I hope to see you next year.”

Sister Virginia Pearl, Teresa’s great-niece, recalled a visit Ms. Reed paid on her family’s home in St. Marys, Kansas. Offering a benedictory prayer, Sister Virginia said, “We thank God for Teresa, our elder. She is not just the elder of the Slavin family, but also the elder of the Potawatomi family.”

Speaking to Ms. Reed, Sister Virginia, added, “Each child you taught during those many, many years you taught school – you were a blessing to those families.”   

In conclusion, she said, “We are grateful that you believed that there was something better in life … that you loved to play the piano every week in church. Thank you for your smile. Thank you for your faith.”

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