From serving as an educator and long-time member of Second Baptist Church to being a public servant, Maxine H. Stokes held many hats in the Seguin community.
Though she was born in Gonzales County, Stokes called Guadalupe County and Seguin home for the last 86 years, until her recent death.
The daughter of Herman and Tony Harris, Stokes graduated from Ball High School in 1951 before going to school at Huston-Tillotson University where she earned a degree in home economics.
After living in Houston briefly with her family, Stokes moved back to Seguin and took up a teaching job at Athens Elementary in San Antonio. Five years later, Stokes returned to the Seguin school system, but this time as a teacher at Jefferson Elementary, where she taught second grade until 1986.
Stokes’ granddaughter, Tanisha Hearn, recalls being in Stokes’ classroom as a second-grader.
“She was my second-grade teacher and she always told me I was the smartest in the class. She told me so much that I believed it,” Hearn said. “I have two younger cousins, but we all individually thought we were the smartest because that’s just what she put in us. She set her expectations so high for us that we couldn’t help but excel and do well, because we didn’t know anything else. She just infused that confidence in us.”
To her grandchildren, Stokes was known as “Nanny,” something she also became known as to other people in the community.
“I had her first as my second-grade math teacher and we called her Nanny so by the end of the school year all my friends in the class called her Nanny because I would slip up so much,” Hearn said.
Stokes opened a daycare at her home on Johnson Avenue, which flourished quickly.
“During the past few years, she has decreased the amount of children she takes care of, but still cares for several children each day,” an article from the Jan. 17, 1995 Seguin Gazette-Enterprise edition said about Stokes. “The children are treated with love, respect and kindness, and seem to be happy to spend time with ‘Nanny,’ as they lovingly call her.”
Stokes served on the Seguin City Council from Oct. 1, 1991, to May 2000, where she also was the Mayor Pro Tem.
“Maxine was very compassionate about Seguin and the whole community. She served very passionately on the council,” former Seguin Mayor Mark Stautzenberger said. “She was just very good to work with. She was open to great, new ideas. She was open to anybody in the community.”
Stokes voted not only for what was best for her district, but what was best for the whole city, Stautzenberger said.
And, she cared about Seguin’s history and preserving its past, Second Baptist Church member Mark Gretchen said.
Stokes accepted the National Baseball Hall of Fame award that was given to Smokey Joe Williams in Cooperstown, New York, in 1999 on behalf of the city since she was a part of the Smokey Joe Tribute Committee.
Stokes also was a life-long member of the Second Baptist Church.
“She was an amazing person who did so much for, I think, everyone she came in contact with,” Gretchen said. “For the church, she was one of our leaders, a very strong person in the church. She was a very inspirational person, a very godly person.”
Stokes served on the board of directors in the early 1990s for Guadalupe Valley Habitat for Humanity as well as the Guadalupe County Chapter of the Red Cross. Other groups she was once involved in include the Guadalupe Valley Hospice, Alamo Area Council of Governments and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
While she was a staple in the community, for her family she was the center of their world.
“She was just very loving. Her house was like the center of our family. Her cousins, our family always came to her house,” Hearn said. “It was the center of our family because all our meals were there. All our family gatherings happen there. She’s loved by so many people just because she’s so giving and creative and loving.”
She was like their very own Martha Stewart, Hearn said.
“She was always baking something, doing something and we just always hung around because she always had a project for us to do or something fun,” she said.
People describe her grandmother as always being loving and caring, Hearn said because she was.
“What they saw in my grandmother every day was the truth. She was like that all the time. We saw her give so much to other people,” Hearn said. “I think that’s something that my cousins and my auntie and dad took along with us. We always are giving and helpful to other people because she just lived like that. She was available to everyone else that was in need.”