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  • Cynthia Henry

Marguerite Hudson to be honored at Legacy Oaks of Azle on Thursday, April 27

Surviving in today’s world is not easy, and nobody knows that better than 97-year-old Marguerite Hudson, who has weathered storms on the Gulf Coast much of her life.

She was born in Mississippi, but as a young mother, she and her first husband moved to New Orleans, where they were completing their education after the second world war.

“We never missed a Mardi Gras parade,” she said. “We would dress in costume and go to St. Charles Avenue, which is a more family-oriented parade.”

On the day of Mardi Gras, Marguerite and her husband would go to the big parade without the daughters.

“We were happy there, but as they got older, we thought it’s probably not a good place to bring them up.”

Marguerite’s husband was offered a position as a clinical psychologist in California; so they relocated to Malibu, where she taught elementary students. It was nice, but the family was thrilled to come back home six years later when her husband was named the director at Gulf Coast Mental Health Center in Gulfport.

In 1969, Hurricane Camille ripped through the area, destroying the family’s home. The bottom floor was completely gutted by high water. The top floor received damage from falling rain. The couple rebuilt but only to sell it and build another home 20 miles inland. The couple built a French Colonial house because it reminded them of New Orleans. They salvaged bricks from their old home and created a wall in the family room, or the Camille Room as they called it.

Unfortunately, Marguerite’s bad luck with storms did not end there. She was unable to evacuate during Katrina in 2005.

After the death of her first husband in 1994, Marguerite met an old classmate at a reunion. The two communicated for a year before marrying. He suffered a heart attack and became an invalid two years later. He required regular dialysis and had to be on oxygen at all times.

Marguerite says she never minded being a caregiver, but a lack of portable oxygen kept the pair from leaving Gulfport before Katrina hit. The portable tanks they had would only provide oxygen 10-12 hours, which she knew that was not enough to get through traffic in an evacuation. By the time they got a tank big enough to hold a full day’s worth of oxygen, it was too late to leave. Katrina was approaching.

Gulfport received 125 mph winds during the storm. Marguerite, who was 80 at the time, said she watched out the windows as two pecan trees were uprooted. Water started to seep in through their door. Because she could not move her husband’s hospital bed, it sat in front of the chimney in the living room.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “I just stayed there, facing the hospital bed, and we just prayed. It was horrible. When a big gust of wind would come down the chimney, I was afraid it would cave in on him.”

When the storm was over, the couple left the area, but even that was a challenge. Pine trees littered the highway. Some areas of the road were closed, but because her husband was on oxygen, they were allowed through. At times she had to drive on the grass to avoid debris.

Of course, once they reached an unaffected area, no hotel rooms were available. Exhausted and somewhat defeated, Marguerite’s husband collapsed. He was admitted into the hospital where, thankfully, Marguerite was offered a bed in his room. Upon his release, the couple found a place to rent.

“I think when you go through troubles it makes you stronger,” she said. “I’ve realized that I never once felt really depressed. We just somehow got the strength, and that’s the spirit of the coast. Many lost everything, but they didn’t give up.”

Three weeks later, when electricity was restored, Marguerite put her husband in a skilled nursing facility and travelled back to assess the damage in Gulfport. There she fought with insurance companies and hired someone to tarp the house for a second time and clean up the fallen trees. Luckily, the house was livable. She brought her husband back to Gulfport when dialysis centers reopened a couple of months later. He died that same year.

An exhausted Marguerite realized she needed to be closer to family, so she built a home in Azle near one of her daughters. She lived there until she relocated to Legacy Oaks four years ago.

The senior living community is honoring Marguerite with a celebration on Thursday, April 27. The fun includes a Mardi Gras parade, jazz music, shrimp cocktail, games, and a chance to meet Marguerite herself. The fun starts at 2 p.m.

“I have a good life,” she said. “I try to take care of myself and I follow the doctor’s orders,” which include a restricted diet and plenty of exercise in Legacy Oaks’ fitness room.

She enjoys doing puzzles and hosting family members at her one-bedroom suite. There’s a full kitchen where she can cook for guests, but she generally eats in the dining room.

“They (Legacy Oaks) always have fresh fruits and vegetables. They have a good selection at meal time, too. You can always choose between three or four things,” she said.

Although she turned in her car keys at age 95, she still gets to travel on occasion.

“This year we’re planning to have a family reunion in Mississippi,” she said. “We always go to New Orleans whenever we go back.”

As for advice, Marguerite says, “Try not to worry and put your trust in God -- but do your part . You have to have a positive attitude and wake up every morning and thank God for what you have.”

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