Mildred Josephine Porter Soward, 88, a native of Atascosa County, Texas, passed away peacefully on 14 November 2016 in her home in Pleasanton, Texas, surrounded by her loving family. She was known by various given names to her family and many friends. Some knew her as Mildred or Mildred Jo while others lovingly called her Joey, Mama, Jo Jo or Millie.
Mildred Jo was born in Coughran, Atascosa County, Texas, on October 17, 1928 to Wilber Ernest Porter and Ruby Florence Shafer Porter. She was the oldest of ten children. As a first grader she attended Pleasanton Elementary School but by second grade, the family had moved to Jourdanton, and Mildred received her remaining schooling there, graduating from Jourdanton High School in 1946. As a junior high student, she marched with the high school band as a flag bearer. One of her memorable events during high school was performing the role of Cinderella in a school play. After graduating from Jourdanton, Mildred Jo married her high school sweetheart Hillard Martin Soward, Jr. on November 7, 1946 at her parents home just north of Pleasanton. Her husband Martin often recounted that he courted Mildred under a large huisache tree in the Jourdanton school yard. Years later, after learning about the Texas Big Tree Registry sponsored by the Texas Forest Service, Martin nominated the tree and it was recognized as the largest huisache tree, not only in Texas but the entire United States. The tree still stands on the grounds of what is now the Atascosa County Sheriffs Office.
Mildred Jo and Martin were the parents of three sons, Hillard Martin Soward, III, Gary Michael Soward and David Alan Soward. Jo Jo was a stay at home mom because she felt a mother should be at home for her children. When her husband went into the candy business for himself in 1960, she kept books and performed numerous other duties to help with the business. In the late 1960s, Martin built and opened the Food and Fun, an amusement center and snack bar on Bryant Street. Mildred Jo helped by managing the business with her husband and doing the short-order cooking where her enchiladas were the hit of the menu.
After a long blessed marriage, the sons honored their parents with a Golden Wedding Anniversary reception in 1996 at Trinity Baptist Church Fellowship Hall in Pleasanton. Mildred Jo and Martin were married for 55 years at the time of his death on 14 August 2002 in Jourdanton. During their marriage they resided in Jourdanton, Austin and Pleasanton.
A devout Christian, Mildred Jo grew up attending the Methodist church and, following her marriage, became a member of the Baptist denomination. Since 1967, she was active in Trinity Baptist Church in Pleasanton.
Joey was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy, a 36 year member of the Atascosa County Historical Commission, serving that organization as historian for 34 years, and a life-time member of the Atascosa County Law Enforcement Officers Association. In addition to her membership activities, she was an excellent artist and seamstress and loved to sew for her family and herself. Her paintings decorate the homes of many family members and friends. Several of her paintings were used on Historical Commission Christmas ornaments. In addition, Mildred Jo was recognized as Artist of the Month on several occasions. One painting hung in the office of a Congressman in Washington, D. C., for many years.
Mildred Jo is survived by her three sons, H. Martin Soward, III of San Antonio, Gary M. Soward of Pleasanton and Sheriff David A. Soward and wife Frances of Jourdanton. Also six grandchildren, Martin Donald Soward Marty and wife Casey of Cross, Texas; Caitrin Josette Soward Johnson Caity and husband Todd of Floresville; Justin Bauer Soward of Houston; Kimberly Leeane Soward of Pleasanton; Will Garrett Soward and Erin Elizabeth Soward, both of Jourdanton. Additionally, there are six great grandchildren, Cailyn Jayne Lopez of San Antonio, Martin Donald Donnie Soward, Jr., of San Marcos, Texas, Terryn Elisabeth Soward of San Antonio, Roselyn Lucy-Kate Johnson and Adelyn Marie Johnson of Floresville, and Trinitee Jade Soward of Houston. Step great-grandchildren include Nichole Miller of San Antonio, Maxwel Martinez of Brooklyn, New York; Madison, Makenzie and Masyn Sherrer of Cross; and Sophia and Cash Johnson of China Spring. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren were the light of Joeys life. Each one was deeply loved and adored by their Jo Jo. Most of all, Mildred Jo put her heart and soul into being a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She always went out of her way for her kids and grandkids and put them all ahead of herself. She had great joy in making every birthday and holiday so special for her family. Whether it was teaching her grandkids to paint, cook, bake, appreciate history, Christianity, or just shooting squirrels in her pecan trees, she was never too busy to spend special time with any or all of them. Having her sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren in her home, not only on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but at any time of the year, were the happiest times of Jo Jos life. Her Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were incredible. Never were the meals ordinary. She would prepare, by hand, a turkey, a ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, three or four other vegetables, cranberry sauce, the best fruit salad ever, at least four different kinds of pies and the best homemade cornbread dressing in the world. These family gatherings and meals were something she cherished and something she loved to do and still did up until a couple of years ago.
Mildred Jo leaves behind four sisters and three brothers, all of whom she loved dearly. They are Matilene Kuretsch of Pleasanton; Lawrence Porter and good friend Helen Briscoe of Sheridan, Texas; Richard Porter and wife Linda of Pleasanton; Morris Porter and wife Ilene of San Antonio; Linda Sue Newman and husband James of Pleasanton; Ruby Churchill and husband Jim of Kingsville; and Sandra Gasch of Midland, Texas; 14 nieces, and ten nephews. Three beloved sisters-in-law of Mildred Jo: Iris Brite Porter of Pleasanton, Eunice Soward Sims of Porter, Texas, and Margaret Soward Pickett of Houston. Also surviving are two special former daughters-in-law, Mary Catherine Kessler of Jourdanton and Karon Bauer of Pleasanton.
She was preceded in death by her husband Martin Soward, parents, Ruby and Wilber Porter, grandparents, Leona Simpson Porter Brown, Stark P. Porter, Jerome F. Shafer and Queen Addie Blackman Shafer, and two brothers, W. E. Porter, Jr., and Norman F. Porter.
Mildred Josephine Porter Soward will be interred in the Pleasanton City Cemetery following funeral services at Hurley Funeral Home Chapel on November 17 at 10:30 a.m.
Visitation will be held on Wednesday, November 16 from 2- 7 p.m. with family present from 5 – 7 p.m.
Serving as pallbearers are Marty Soward, Justin Soward, Will Soward, Donnie Soward, Steve Soward and Norman Porter, Jr.
Memorial donations in memory of Mildred Jo may be made to the Atascosa County Historical Commission, Trinity Baptist Church of Pleasanton or the Old Rock School Restoration Project.
The family wishes to express its deep thanks and appreciation to her care-givers, Maria Gaytan, Gaby Royal, Rita Gallegos, and Ninfa Martinez.