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Winofred Rodgers White, last of pioneer family, dies
The last surviving member of the Frank and Mary Rodgers family, Winofred "Winnie" Rodgers White, died on Wednesday at the age of 104.
Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Corning.
She is the youngest of the couple's 11 children, three of whom died while very young.
White had been living in the Olive City Care Home in Corning until four months ago when her family transferred her to a nursing home closer to them in Battleground, Wash.
She was born Jan. 4, 1908, in Sunnyside, Wash., The family moved to Corning before she was 3.
White was a blonde, blue-eyed girl less than 10 years old when she watched her parents open the first movie house in Corning in 1917.
The family established the Rodgers Theatre in downtown Corning in 1935 where White played the piano tunes for the silent movies.
White witnessed the olive and olive industry boom in Corning when the town's slogan was changed from "Corning, the Clean Town," to "Corning, the Olive Town."
White was very involved in high school activities and played on the school's girls basketball team and graduated from the school her father helped build.
She attended University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out before the end of her first year, and it was back to Corning.
Not long after, White became reacquainted with her future husband, Wayne White. Following a bad car accident involving the two, they were soon married, the bride on crutches, in the home of her sister.
The Whites lived in Dairyville on his family farm. They had one daughter, Marjorie Kay.
When the Whites separated, she took their daughter and moved to the Bay area, where she stayed for many years working as a legal secretary, and then for 17 years with the Oakland Parks and Recreation Department.
In 1992, she returned to Corning.
White has lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, but in a book she wrote, "All for Love of Family, a historical biography," she recalls some of the simpler moments like the introduction of synthetics, Pyrex dishes, the refrigerator, cosmetics, the replacement of silk stockings with nylons, talking movies, air-conditioning, and television.
White has witnessed many wondrous firsts, such as having electricity and indoor plumbing in her childhood home, and the excitement of the family's first automobile.
She was an avid folk dancer into her 40s, and learned to waterski at 50.
In her sixth decade she traveled to Europe and Egypt where she showed off the horsemanship skills of her youth riding a camel.
Not afraid of a new challenge, even in her eighties, White returned to school during which time she wrote her biography which she completed and published in 1999.
White was the inspiration for the novel, "The Roots of The Olive Tree," about five generations of women living in a small town in Northern California. The book was written by her great-granddaughter, Courtney Miller Santo and was published in August.
Dianna Haley, who with her parents Jeff and Elena Heaney, took care of White at their Olive City Care Home on Walnut Street described White as a real character.
"Winnie never leaves her room without wearing jewelry," said one of her former fellow care home residents. "And she loves bananas. When we eat we have to watch out for our bananas so she doesn't take them."
For as long as she could, White greeted everyone who came into the room with a wide, although somewhat toothless grin, a wave of the hand and a friendly, "Hi, how are you?"
To the end, while her memory was frail, somewhat like her small framed body, there are triggers that sent her into laughter and song.
She loved to sing, and remembered the words to her favorite songs better than she remembered her own name.
All her caretakers had to do was sing a few notes to songs such as "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny," and away White would go, picking up the words and tune and waving her arms like a professional performer to the delight of all around her.
Another thing that really lit up White's world was to talk about her family. That brought a joy to her face like nothing else could.
She is survived by her only child, Marjorie Wallace, three grandchildren - Kathleen Rowley of Rexburg, Idaho, Karen Miller of Vancouver, Wash., and John Wallace of Corning.
Although she had only one daughter, White's posterity expanded to include 12 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-grandchildren.
"While White outlived her siblings and friends her age, she will be missed greatly by her family and all the friends of her daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were continually amazed by her vitality and spunk," said White's granddaughter Karen Miller.