The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 7, 2013

Maxine Austin remembered as Enid 'dynamo'

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — America still was young in 1910 when Maxine Austin was born.

That same year, Boy Scouts of America was founded. The start of domestic tourism occurred with the establishment of Glacier National Park in Montana. The 1910 census showed 92,228,496 people lived in the country, a 21 percent increase since the last census.

Austin was alive for it all. But, she embraced the 21st century as much as the 20th. Friends remembered her as a dynamo who loved life to the fullest.

Austin, an Enid civic leader, died Thursday at age 102.

Lindy Chambers, former Main Street Enid director, remembers Austin as a tireless and enthusiastic supporter. She was a charter member of the Main Street Design Committee.

“I only had the pleasure of knowing her the last 20 years, and I can only imagine how energetic she was younger,” Chambers said.

“She was never a token member because of her age. She worked and worked ... she was hands-on and fully engaged,” Chambers said.

Chambers recalled the time the committee scheduled a day to work downtown on the corner nodes and trim trees, and Austin was there. A group from Vance Air Force Base also volunteered to help. The established work time was 8 a.m. to noon.

“At noon everyone left, and I looked around and Maxine was still working,” Chambers said. “I told her everyone was going home and she said, ‘Lindy we’re not done.’ We worked another hour,” Chambers said.

Austin received the Oklahoma Writer’s Association Pegasus Award, the Friend of Leonardo’s Award and a Community Service Award from former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry.

When Austin received the award from Henry, Chambers said, she insisted on getting up from her wheelchair and walking to the governor, who met her part of the way.

Longtime friend Paula Nightengale, owner of Park Avenue Thrift, has a list of Austin’s sayings. After Austin went to the Commons, Nightengale went to visit her one day and she had a menu on her lap. Nightengale commented on one offering about orange-kissed Brussels sprouts.

Austin replied, “It’s an insult to the orange.”

“Maxine always challenged any community the size of Enid, to have as much to offer as we do,” Nightengale said, pointing out Enid Symphony Orchestra, Gaslight Theatre, Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse, Autry Technology Center, Main Street Enid and PEGASYS, Enid’s public-access television station.

“On her 100th birthday she painted a house for Habitat for Humanity, “Nightengale said.

Later, City Manager Eric Benson brought her a cake with 100 candles during a party in her honor at Enid Symphony Center.

Lee Thompson, who went into the insurance business with Austin’s husband, Marsden “Satch” Austin, he said they were nice to him when he was starting out.

“She was a feisty little thing, but a total lady. That’s the way I remember her and I loved her a lot,” Thompson said.

A memorial service celebrating Austin’s life will be 10 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, with the Rev. Andrew Long officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Brown-Cummings Funeral Home.

She was born to Roy and Ethel Sanford in Marshall.

She moved with her family to Enid at the age of 7. Austin earned her A.B. degree from the University of Oklahoma and also attended Randolph Macon. She authored a book of poetry and a book of short stories, and was a lifelong supporter of the arts. She was a member of a number of poetry groups and regularly attended national poet conventions.

Austin married Marsden Austin, who preceded her in death, and later married Howard Speckelmier.