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Elva Richardson – A Rememberance

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

Slightly over two years ago I received a message from a friend from my high school days. He told me he was living in Conroe and was friends with a 99 year old man that had lived in Orange and worked in one of the shipyards during World War II. My friend said his friend was “still sharp as a tack”, and would be able to tell some good stories. I went to Conroe and did an interview. There were three of his friends and myself that set in his living room and were enthralled by his life story.

The man’s name was Elva Richardson. He was born in a small town in northern Louisiana and had to quit school when his dad was killed in a logging accident. Elva was 13 and started working for one of the timber companies. One of his jobs he liked to mention was as a “mule skinner” driving mules pulling loads of timber.

In 1940, he and some friends went from their home area to Orange to try to find work in the shipyard that was being built. Richardson was hired at Consolidated shipyard and actually helped build the shipyard before the shipyard starting building ships. Because of his work ethic and desire to constantly educate himself, in his career he went from being a laborer building cement forms to what would now be called “mid-management.” His career spanned 40 plus years.

Elva married a hometown girl and brought Myrtle to Orange in 1942. She was a teacher and her talents were much needed.

“There were so many people coming into Orange that for six weeks or so, her class increased by 10 students a week,” said Elva.

Myrtle became principal at Colburn and Manley schools in Riverside at the same time. She stayed with the school district and retired as the Elementary Education Coordinator for the district.

One of Myrtle’s co-workers told me that they thought Myrtle would never retire. She enjoyed her job so much that she managed to stay for nearly three years after normal retirement age. They were not sure how she pulled it off, but she was able to leave “when SHE got ready.”

As they aged, they moved from Orange to Conroe to live near their daughter, Charlotte Evans. When I met Elva he was living in the small apartment they had built next to Charlotte’s home. Myrtle died several years before I met Elva and he was living alone, with Charlotte keeping a close eye on him.

Elva was slow moving, but his mind was sharp and he delighted in sharing with the four of us things that had meant much to him in his life. Elva had been a 60 year member of the Orange Lions Club and was proud of the certificate they had given him in recognition of his longevity.

Elva always wore a western hat. While living in Orange, he was a customer of Mrs. Lucia who owned and operated the Western Store on Green Avenue.

“Mike, have you ever seen a Stetson CAP?,” he asked.

I replied that I had not. (I had told Elva about my brief career as a rodeo announcer, so we had common ground.) He got up and went into another room and came out wearing the only Stetson cap I have ever seen. The story was that Mrs. Lucia called him and told him to go by her store, that Stetson had sent him something. The cap was a gift from Stetson for being a loyal customer for so many years.

Elva and Myrtle had been long time members of the Orange County Historical Society and attended the meetings regularly. One of the things Elva was remembered for was always wearing his hat.

Elva tried to stay active and until he broke a hip at age 99, worked out at a gym in Conroe. He regularly attended church services at First United Methodist Church of Conroe. It was at a church service this past June that I last saw Elva. I was visiting a friend in Conroe and went to church. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a wheeled walker coming down the aisle. On the seat of the walker was a silver belly Stetson hat. Pushing the walker was Elva.

After the service we had a nice visit. Elva was glad to see me and I was glad to see him. His birthday was in May and had turned 101 years old. Two years had not made much difference. His mind was still sharp and he looked and felt good.

Two weeks ago I got word from my friend who had introduced me to Elva that Elva only had a few days to live, his health had taken a sudden down turn. Elva died November 22 and on November 30, he came back to Orange to be laid to rest beside his beloved Myrtle.

When I wrote the story about Elva, one of my friends who had attended the interview suggested that I name the story “Man of Steel” in recognition of the years he had spent at the shipyard. It was a good title for another reason, his endurance and unwavering character.

“And now you know”