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Ten 8th graders from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School attended the 2017 Oak Cliff Lions Club Annual Bill Melton Humanitarian of the Year Awards Luncheon in April, and were invited to take a photo with this year's honoree, Vivian Castleberry. The students were amazed at Mrs. Castleberry's stories of Dallas in the 1940s when "there was only dirt roads north of SMU and just a few houses dotting the landscape for as far as the eye could see."

Ten 8th graders from St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School were among the sold-out crowd of 160 at the annual Oak Cliff Lions Club Bill Melton Humanitarian of the Year Award Luncheon held last month at Weiss Auditorium at Methodist Medical Center.

This was the 39th year for the Oak Cliff Lions' award to be presented, but the first time students from St. Elizabeth’s were invited and attended.

Honoree Vivian Castleberry began her acceptance speech with an acknowledgment directed “to the students from St. Elizabeth’s back there in the corner of the room,” and another handful of The Canterbury’s School students. Both schools are in Oak Cliff and were invited by Lions who are associated with the schools. St. Elizabeth’s students are often seen around Oak Cliff volunteering and attending the Lions Club Luncheon was a chance for them to learn about the 88-year-old service club.

Widely recognized as one of Dallas’ most active community leaders and humanitarians, Mrs. Castleberry made a career of working to improve the city of Dallas through her volunteerism and activism and especially her three-plus decades of writing for the Dallas Times Herald.

A journalist for over 30 years, Castleberry was the first woman to serve on the editorial board of the Dallas Times Herald and she focused attention on issues considered controversial at the time: foster care, adoptions, abortions, domestic violence, child poverty.

She began her speech directed at the students in the room, and said she had celebrated her 95th birthday the week before and was often asked about what contributed to her long life. “The usual things like a god diet and exercise are important, but remaining positive and upbeat is key,” she told the students. She told them she was one of two working professional women in downtown Dallas in the late 1940’s, and that she continued to work even after she had children—something unheard of back in the day. She said when she married her husband she told him she wanted to continue to work outside of the home, and he was very supportive, as were her five daughters, four of whom attended the luncheon. Castleberry said they admitted to her on her 95th birthday that they never felt neglected by her being gone from their home to work, but instead considered themselves lucky to have a mother who was working out in the world making it a better place.

Castleberry helped create The Dallas Women’s Foundation, Women’s Issues Network, Women’s Center of Dallas, The Family Place and Peacemakers International among many others.

St. Elizabeth’s Isabelle Green said, “I enjoyed hearing Mrs. Castleberry talk about her career in journalism. As a writer originally for the 'Women’s section' of the  newspaper, she told us her main focuses were the 'Four F's’: food, fashion, family, and furnishings. It surprised me  when I learned of the limitations of writing that existed for female journalists at the time.”

She went on to note, “Mrs. Castleberry talked about the clothing expectations for women at that time. While reporting, women had to wear white gloves out in public, so they would be considered fashionable. I was shocked at the major differences of women's restrictions to write back then, compared to those that exist today. Mrs. Castleberry impressed me, and I was very moved by her story."

St. Elizabeth students were the first group invited by Bill Melton, Past Oak Cliff Lions Club President and Past Lions Club Governor, to take photos with the award recipient as the luncheon ended. Mrs. Castleberry made a point to shake each student's hand and learn their names, to the delight of the students. All ten will graduate this month and go on to various high schools, but each said they’d love to return for the 40th Annual Oak Cliff Lions Club Bill Melton Humanitarian of the Year Award Luncheon next year.

Along with Principal Rachel Dzurilla, chaperones were parents Andy and Susan Goza. Students attending included: Darrell Bagayna, David Cardoza, Mia Duarte, Savannah Flores, Isabelle Green, Jasmine Fontenot, Anthony Gonzales, Madison Goza, IsaJingheng Kelleher and Matthew Pedraza.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary is enrolling students in pre-k3 through 8th grade now for the 2017-18 academic year. Field trips are part of the school’s expansive educational program. The public is invited to come tour the school and meet the exceptional faculty and staff. For more information, see the school’s website www.saintspride.com

Or contact: Sandy Walkley, Administrative Assistant: (214) 331-5139 x21 or email her at:
swalkley@saintspride.com

Members of the Oak Cliff Lions Club volunteer in many different ways. Last year the club started a popular “Community Market Place” held on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. The market takes place from 8 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the parking lot in front of Lulu B’s located at 1982 Fort Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff. See: www.oakclifflions.org or the club’s Facebook pages: Oak Cliff Lions or Oak Cliff Lions Club Farmer’s Market for more information.

Judy Porter write stories about local heroes, small businesses, schools and non-profits. Contact her at judy-porter@sbcglobal.net

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