Before the days of turnpikes, interstates and super highways, Winogene “Winnie” White endured a weeklong trip on rough, dusty and sometimes muddy roads to her new home in Independence.

Before the days of turnpikes, interstates and super highways, Winogene “Winnie” White endured a weeklong trip on rough, dusty and sometimes muddy roads to her new home in Independence.

Winnie was 16 when she and her two sisters left Detroit, Mich., with her parents in a Ford automobile for a new life in Missouri as a pastor’s kid. Her father was an ordained elder, pastor and bishop’s agent in the RLDS Church – later renamed Community of Christ.

Eight decades later, Winnie still resides in Independence, where she has lived most of her adult life. Now she lives at Carmel Hills Healthcare Center, where she recently observed her 105th birthday.

Sitting in the family dining room at Carmel Hills, Winnie fielded question after question about her long, productive life that revolves around her musical talents and family.

Winnie loves to reminisce. And that arduous trip to Independence as a teenager was etched in her keen mind as she recalled “caravaning” with another couple – the Gaults – and their three children. And they, too, were driving a Ford.

“We had a good time,” Winnie says of the six children on the trip. But she’s not sure the adults did, not with having to change two flat tires – one on each car – cooking their meals on a little kerosene stove and eating dust stirred up from the unpaved roads.

Because of the choking dust, Winnie says, her father and the Gaults often took different routes to get to a predetermined destination. There they linked up again and continued motoring southwest.

“We kept together like that for a whole week,” Winnie says, recalling that preparing meal after meal on a small kerosene stove finally took its toll on her weary mother.

“The poor dear got awfully tired of (cooking),” she says with a snicker, recalling her mom finally put her foot down and sternly addressed her husband: “This is the last time. You’ve got to take us out (to eat). Or we don’t eat.”

“You know what Dad did?” she asks of no one in particular. Then laughingly replies, “He took us out to eat.”

 Winnie recalls another instance when her father had a change of heart and succumbed to the teary pleas of a family member wanting to keep the stray puppy they found en route to Missouri.

“My sister had to have it,” she recalls, noting the puppy took a liking to her and vice versa.

A bond of love had been formed. So strong, in fact, that when Winnie’s sister was told the pup couldn’t go with them, she began bawling and pleading with her father to change his mind.

Not wanting to break his daughter’s heart, he relented, allowing the puppy to accompany the family to Missouri.

“She was the pride of the family,” Winnie recalls.

After arriving in Independence, Winnie’s family built a house on Wilson Road at the end of Lexington Avenue, “where it goes down to Truman Road.”

Three years later – Sept. 18, 1929 – a unique thing occurred in the lives of Winnie and her sister, Ruth Thomas. They were married in a double-wedding ceremony in Independence.

Winnie, who was born Dec. 10, 1905, in Detroit, married Frank Boyes. The couple lived in Washington, D.C., and Colorado during World War II.

“During those years, my husband was in the War Department, so we had to go to where he was sent,” she recalls. Following the war, they returned to Independence with their only child, Donna Cook, who now resides in Southern California.

Following her husband’s unexpected death shortly after the war, Winnie married George Schooling. But he died about a year later. She and her third husband, Frank White, were married 20-plus years before he passed away.

Reminiscing about her early life, Winnie has fond memories of Independence as a teen-ager, especially “winding the clock” on Independence Square.

In those days, it was customary for couples to officially end their dates by symbolically winding the clock atop the courthouse. That was done by walking around the historic courthouse.

“We walked four times around the courthouse before we went home,” Winnie says. “Sometimes we sang. Sometimes we talked. That was fun.”

Were lots of people winding the clock? Winnie smiles and replies, “Of course,” in a soft, romantic voice. “We always had to wind the clock before we came home (from a date).”

The Square ritual also resulted in the banishment of a  boyfriend that brought Winnie home past the 10:30 p.m. curfew.

“It was about 11 when I got home, and mother met us at the door,” she recalls, with these words of admonishment to her startled date: “I told you what time she was to be home, and you didn’t keep your promise to me. So she doesn’t need to see you anymore.”

Winnie says both were to blame for the banishment, explaining they got involved with other things and got a late start on winding the clock.

Did Winnie ever see this young man again?

“I saw him again,” she says. “But I never dated him again.”

Music has been an important part of Winnie’s life. She excelled as a pianist at an early age and played for the church she attended for many years.

Playing the piano, though, wasn’t her only forte. She also had a lyric soprano voice, which later dropped to mezzo.

 So strong and beautiful was it that Paul Craig, an RLDS choral director, selected her and five other vocalists as the foundation of a popular 25-member glee club he was organizing. She was one of the soloists.

So, it’s no surprise that Winnie would say “music” was her greatest achievement.

“I’ve loved (music) all my life and I still do. Then I sang in different choruses and quartets. But music was my life.”

When not involved in music, Winnie was wrapped up in PEO, having found the Independence KL chapter of the international organization in 1972. Although still active, the charter member is no longer able to attend meetings.

Not after suffering a broken hip three years ago. Prior to the fall, Winnie walked a lot. But the broken hip, she says, “kind of squelched it all.” Today, Winnie uses her walker to get around “just to keep busy.”

And she offers this advice: “If you don’t keep busy and keep walking, you’re dead.”

Winnie describes herself as “just an ordinary person that likes singing and music. But her daughter, Donna Cook, says her mother is much more than that.

“People (at Carmel Hills) that I don’t even know will say I just love your mother. She is always so happy. And the nurses and other people say she’s such a lady and is always happy.

Joyce McIntosh, a longtime friend of Winnie and a PEO “sister,” says Winnie is a lady with a capital “L,” who has a very generous heart and sees life through rose-colored glasses.

Asked if there was anything she wanted to do but didn’t, Winnie replies without hesitating:

“I would have liked to have gone on with my singing and music. I had a good voice at that time and I wanted to go on and pursue it. But, I got married, and then I didn’t do so much of it. But I have always sang when I could in choirs and a cappella.”

Happy birthday, Winnie. Always keep a song in your heart and that beautiful smile on your face. You are truly one of life’s real treasures.