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City Hall Honors Local Centenarian

Joy Diaz, KUT News

This is Martha Coleman Day in Austin. Mayor Lee Leffingwell made that proclamation in honor of one of Austin’s oldest living residents.

Coleman is a tiny woman. At a quilting party celebrating her 108th birthday she wore a pink dress that was a little too big for her. Coleman’s 93-year-old niece had been stitching while she waited for her aunt’s arrival. One of Coleman’s great-grandnieces put a Happy Birthday rhinestone tiara on her head. Coleman’s slim fingers grabbed a needle and start putting the shapes together.

“I never did play too much,” said Coleman, who works out once a week. “I was always sick when I was small. But I liked to skip, skip, skip. But I was crippled when I was little and I never did play too much.”

But she could quilt. So as a little girl, Coleman learned from her mother. The world has dramatically changed around her, but she has kept a tight-knit family that looks like her quilts -- all colors, shapes and sizes stitched by her common thread. And she works out once a week.

Leffingwell presented Coleman with a proclamation from the city and one from Gov. Rick Perry.

“I don’t even have words to thank you,” she said.

“Well, no thanks are necessary,” Leffingwell replied.

“But I do have to say thank you.”

“We’ll come back next year and wish you a happy 109, okay?”


Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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