Friday, December 19, 2014

TOP STORY >> Erline Pace marks 100th birthday

Leader staff writer

Erline Pace, a former longtime Jacksonville resident, is celebrating her 100th birthday with a reception Sunday at the First Baptist Church immediately following church services.

Erline has survived battles with colon and breast cancer, having had a mastectomy when she was 94. She modeled in the Runway for a Cause in 2010.

She lives in the Fox Ridge assisted-living community in North Little Rock.

Pace and her late husband, Robert, came to Jacksonville in 1955 and opened Pace’s Department Store on the corner of Hickory and North First Streets. Robert Pace opened Bob’s Men Store in 1960 in the Jacksonville Shopping Center.

They closed the department store in 1979 after both had heart attacks. Bob’s Men Store was sold in 1980.

Erline Pace was born on Dec. 22, 1914 in Fayetteville, where she graduated from high school in 1932. She attended the University of Arkansas, where she was the 1935 Homecoming Queen and president of Pi Beta Phi sorority.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1936 and her master’s degree in 1940. Her father graduated from the U of A in 1878 and was a banker. Her mom was a homemaker, raising Pace’s two sisters.

Erline taught high school English, French and Spanish at Van Buren (Crawford County) and then Marked Tree (Poinsett County) for 15 years.

“I made so many friends in the classroom. I chose the right the thing to do. You didn’t get rich, but the joy I had took care of it,” she said.

Erline was a principal at Marked Tree when she married Robert in 1941. He was a postmaster. They were married for 43 years, until his death in 1984. Their son, Jim, died in 2001.

Erline was an avid reader, according to her granddaughter, Kelly Eichler.

“She was a regular at the Nixon Library and kept a notebook in which she would grade the books she read. Her favorite was ‘A Woman of Substance,’” Eichler said.

“She calls herself a bridge ‘fiend,’ playing regularly with her friends Bodie Whiting, Mayheart Saine, Melda Rice, Mabel Williams and others. She credits bridge for keeping her mind sharp,” Eichler said.

Robert Pace was an active civic leader in Jacksonville. He served as chamber of commerce president in 1959 and was a founding member of Citizens’ National Bank in 1966. He served on the first Rebsamen Hospital commission in 1962 and served on the board for many years. He was a member of the Jacksonville Lions Club for 40 years.

Pace was also on the city’s first baseball commission. Games were played at Bon Lane Field at the corner of Redmond Road and West Main Street. The lights were kept at Pace’s store when not in use.

Erline Pace is long-time member of the Jacksonville First Baptist Church, where Robert was a deacon.

“My grandmother is extraordinary, not because she’s lived to be 100, but because she’s affected and influenced so many in her life. Her students from Marked Tree still include her in reunions, many of whom say she was the best teacher they ever had,” Eichler said.

“Ralph Williams (recently deceased) came to visit her last year. He told me he was ready to quit school and go to work on the farm when she imposed upon him the importance of education and made sure he knew he had potential. He stayed in school, graduated and became very successful,” Eichler said.

Col. Douglas E. Moore, another former student, wrote to her “heartfelt thanks for the help and direction you provided me a long time ago. This poor country boy has enjoyed a great life and moderate success, thanks in great measure to you. You challenged me when I needed it, chastised me when I did less than I was capable of, and perhaps more important, you encouraged me when I needed a boost.”

Moore earned a master’s degree from Baylor University and became a principal writer for many military projects.

Eichler added, “Phillip Anderson, a well-respected attorney and past president of the American Bar Association, told me she was the best teacher he had.

“My ‘Mimi’ has always been a stable force for me and my brother. She has loved us unconditionally, has expected us to live up to our potential and has provided us with the means to attain any goal we set for ourselves,” Eichler continued.

“She taught us that we can accomplish anything if we work hard, act right and treat people with the respect they deserve. She’s lived by these principles and has set an excellent example for a life well-lived. I am forever grateful to have her in my life,” Eichler said.

Erline Pace said, “All in the family aimed to be a good citizen, and I believed we fulfilled that.”