Faith gives White’s life a purpose


Local News

November 29, 2019 - 10:21 AM

Margaret White

Margaret White had a puzzled look.

When approached about doing an interview for this column, her reply: “Why me? I’m no one special. I’ve never done anything.”

Of course, from a reporter’s perspective, everyone has a story.

As a faithful member of Humboldt’s First Baptist Church, Margaret is an advocate for missionaries. Several times a year she appeals for their support, speaking about their trials and tribulations. She also makes pleas for the continued support of retired ministers. 

Margaret and husband Merton moved to Humboldt in 1991.

In the search of a church, their initial visit was to First Baptist.

“We slipped in and sat on the back row, trying not to draw attention,” Margaret said. “When the service was over we kind of hurried out,” but not fast enough to escape the attention of Pauline Middendorf and Patty Barton, two long-time members.

“They came outside and told us how glad they were to see us in church and how they hoped we’d be back.”

The Whites seldom missed a service thereafter. Merton passed away in 2015.


MARGARET was born in 1933, just as the Great Depression was entering its deepest and darkest period, near Harrison, Ark. Her father, Jesse Smiley, worked as a sharecropper, making $1 a day. Even such a meager wage back then could put food on the table for two or three days. 

World War II helped end the family’s financial hard times with her father finding work at Boeing in Wichita.

The move had two effects, one troubling, the other, beneficial.

“I lost a year of school in part from culture shock — moving from a tiny farm in Arkansas to Wichita — and didn’t graduate from North High until 1953,” when she was 19. 

Her good fortune was that she fell in love with Merton White.

He joined the Air Force after graduation. The two married a year later.

Merton was disabled in a military traffic accident in Georgia, after having been on duty for 24 hours. After his service, he learned appliance repair and found work in Pittsburg and Busby, Okla., then Lone Elm and Humboldt.

She has two sons, Mark and Merle, in Wichita, and daughter Mary, who splits time between a home in Arkansas with husband Steve and Humboldt to help out Margaret, now 86. 

On Thursday, part of her family congregated for Thanksgiving. Some of five grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and a great-great-granddaughter shared the day with Margaret.

Nothing could have pleased her more.