"My family and close friends call me Bud or Buddy," Cardwell says with a smile as she recalls the highlights of her life.
In 1897, Jesse Tristrum May and Tenisha Manley May were the proud parents of a lovely infant girl, Katherine. This happy event took place in London, Arkansas. Katherine was one of 10 children, five girls and five boys, born to the young farming couple.
The family moved from Arkansas to Norman, OK, then to a ranch in West Texas. That's where Katherine attended her first year of school. Katherine smiles when she said her mother thought that they would be ruined by living in the remote area. Later, the May family moved to the Brownfield and Lubbock, TX. areas.
Katherine decided to broaden her educational horizons and attended Seth Ward College in Plainview. She studied there for a year and received her teaching certificate. After that she taught one year in a "country school." Katherine has vivid memories of having to arrive at the little school very early and light the fire before the children arrived.
In 1916, Katherine met and married J.B. Cardwell in Brownfield, TX. There they stayed for several years. J.B.'s father owned a telephone exchange there and hired the new bride as a telephone operator. She chuckles and says "I was a hello girl." While in Brownfield, J.B. managed Kemp Lumber Company and became active in local politics. The Cardwells were so active in the community that the city named a street in their honor.
In 1924, the Cardwell Couple became the Cardwell Family with the arrival of their daughter, Betty Jo. This wonderful event sparked Katherine's life long love of writing poetry. She says "I've written 100's and 100's on different subjects." Katherine has also had her poems published in various books and newspapers throughout the years. "My first poem was in 1924 when the baby came" Katherine recalls. Her book of poems published locally in 1961, "Thought From My Soul" begins with her first poem, "Our Baby."
The Cardwells moved to Plainview, where they were as active in the community as they were in Brownfield. There, Mr. Cardwell served terms as Mayor and held the post of president of the Rotary Club. In 1945, the couple moved to Lubbock where J.B. earned a living as a prominent builder. Katherine was left a widow in 1956.
It is very evident that the Cardwells were a strong religious and civic minded couple. Katharine beams with pride as she speaks of her husband's accomplishments such as the builder of many homes, a post office and a school; Atkins Jr. High. His most noted accomplishment was the construction of the First United Methodist Church in Lubbock, also known as the "Cathedral of the West." J.B. was the Chairman of the Board of the church and knew that previous construction efforts had failed prior to his involvement in the project. With much determination and support from Katherine, the project was completed. She fondly recalls that her husband chose all the art glass windows in the church and adds that the Rose Window was the second largest in the world. On his passing, the church placed a memorial to him in the Altar Bible, along with his written "Philosophy of Life." Katherine says throughout her life, she has drawn great strength from his "Philosophy" and has passed it on to many people and still carries a copy of it with her today.
Katherine admits to having an intense curiosity about her family heritage. After her husband's death, she toured England and Scotland twice, once with a tour group in 1969 and again alone in 1971. She spent three months in the area tracing her family roots and was able to locate her cousins by running ads in the London newspapers. She later visited her grandfather's wood work shop and found her family crest. Katherine recalls many enjoyable during her trips to England. Once she attended a church in Epworth where she presented the minister with her husband's "Philosophy on Life." The minister then included it in his sermon. She also attended a rotary Club meeting in London and placed the United States flag in their collection of those from other countries. Since 1969, many family visits have followed. Her English cousins visited the U.S. for a month in 1983 and still exchange gifts at Christmastime.
Besides being a poetess and self proclaimed antique connoisseur, Katherine has been an active member in numerous religious, civic and volunteer organizations. She has been a faithful member of the First Methodist Church for over 50 years and lead several of the women's organizations. She is a Life Member of the Methodist Hospital Auxiliary and served an its board of Directors. She is also a member of the Lubbock Music Club and Allegro Study Club.
Katherine's long life is a blend of cherished family moments all preserved on her colorful pallet of poetry. She is a Living Treasure to her family and friends. Katherine currently has 2 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Recently her great grandson got married and as with all special events, she supplied the happy couple with an original poem to commemorate the occasion. She also wrote a beautiful poem, "My Church, My Life," in celebration of her 102nd birthday. This was shared during her birthday party, hosted by her church's Senior Adult Council :