Juanita Timberlake Death -The Orange Depot train station is where Juanita Timberlake spent most of her adult life. Juanita left her hometown of Nacogdoches at the age of 16 to attend trade school, and at the age of 17, she began working as a telegrapher-clerk for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Before taking a job as the telegrapher-clerk and ticket agent at the Orange Depot, she worked in seven East Texas towns. Juanita met her husband Charles Timberlake, Sr., a Southern Pacific Railroad telegrapher-clerk at the Echo office while she was working at the depot, and she essentially reared her three children there: Marie Hylden, Patty Willis, and Charles Timberlake Jr.
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“As children, especially once school-age, we came to depot after school all the way through 12 grade,” Willis said. “When we were kids, we played and completed our homework in the waiting area. If passengers were waiting, Mom was very strict. We had to remain silent. She could watch us from her ticket window. We came to retrieve the car when we could drive and would come back to pick her up when the final passenger train ran, which was around 5:30.” Juanita “basically grew up in this station.” Hylden said.
After Juanita passed away on December 22 at the age of 95, her friends and family met at the Orange Depot on Monday to celebrate her life and remember their interactions with her there. Willis stated, “Mother could talk your ear off about the railroad,” She cherished her work. Juanita continued to work for Southern Pacific Railroad even after the Orange Depot shut its doors in 1975. Juanita began working in a trailer alongside the West Orange railroad siding with other employees. Juanita joined the initiative to repair the depot after the Friends of the Orange Depot organization was established in 2013.
“When the Grand Reopening occurred in 2018, Juanita returned to Orange to celebrate,” Juanita’s memorial program states. “It brought her great joy to see the Depot completely restored to its original beauty.” Her desk from her tenure at the depot was preserved throughout the renovations, and a nameplate was attached to it in her honor. Juanita herself spoke about her experience at the Orange Depot and her passion for her work in the video “Stories from the Depot,” Juanita remarked in the film, “I enjoyed so much selling tickets and explaining the trip, informing them the schedules. “I don’t know, I just had such a deep desire to tell them all about their trip.” she said.
Juanita used her understanding of trains and her proficiency with Morse code outside of the confines of her job at the Southern Pacific Railroad. Juanita and her husband used to transmit Morris Code messages to one another while at work, even though they were working at two different stations. They had a little secret code, according to Charles, Jr., which was that dinner would look like a dot and be followed by a six. “He would respond if she typed in aka “OD (for Orange Depot)” or “EK (for Echo), it’s okay, I’m here.” Then he could put ‘D six’ and she would go ‘yes,’ but instead of saying ‘yes, yes, yes’ they would just put it ‘SSS’ as an abbreviation. So they would converse in such manner.”
When Charles Jr. and his sisters were younger, he claimed, his parents would tap messages to one another at the dinner table and other places around the house. Charles Jr. claimed he wasn’t aware of this until he went to college to become a pilot and had to study Morse Code on his own. Charles Jr. found this ability useful over the recent Thanksgiving holiday. They were seated next to each other on the couch when he heard his mother tap a message with her fingertips. He claimed to have decoded the message and returned it in the same manner in which she had sent it, which just so happened to be in the secret code known only to her and his father.
“She jumped and screamed and grabbed my hand and I’m like ‘mom,’ and she was more than excited,” Charles, Jr. said. “It was a very, very just special, unique thing.” Juanita enjoyed sewing, baking, and travel in addition to her love of trains. “It was always a comfort when she was sitting, making clothes for us on her sewing machine,” Hylden said. One of my fondest memories is that. The family asked donations to the Orange Train Depot Museum in place of flowers, and the station agreed to provide an inscribed brick in Juanita’s memory.
PC: Jennie LeBlanc
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