Many people will soon be gathering around the table for the holidays to share the reasons they’re thankful. For Mrs. Billie Selke, 87, she’s forever indebted to the Buckner International organization. She recently moved to Parkway Place, a Buckner Retirement Services community in Houston, but this isn’t the first time she’s lived under a Buckner roof. At the age of eight, Selke became an orphan and lived at the Buckner Orphans Home. Dr. Robert Cooke “Father” Buckner founded the home in Dallas after seeing the needs of hurting and orphaned children in post-Civil War Texas. In the first years, Buckner Orphans Home, later Buckner Children’s Home, was filled with children who were left parentless due to disease and hardship, including Mrs. Selke. The Houston native was one of 600 children who grew up in the home. At the time, Father Buckner didn’t permit adoptions, so she stayed at the home until she graduated from high school in 1947.
“I am thankful for the experiences I had at the Children’s Home, and I look forward to my future at Parkway Place,” said Mrs. Selke. “My experience at Buckner was a pleasant one. I had a lot of friends while I was at the home, and I still keep in contact with some of them today. The Buckner family did a lot of good for children, especially during those hard times. I never knew I would come back and live at a Buckner community again, but I am grateful for this opportunity. When I came to visit friends, I was impressed with Parkway Place. I remember when it was Buckner Haven on Memorial, I have officially come full circle. I can now say I grew up and retired at Buckner.”
Mrs. Selke was born in Houston, but started her childhood in Oakwood, Texas. She was the oldest of three children and lived in her grandparent’s two-story home with nine other family members. Selke says it was during the Great Depression and times were tough, but things took a turn for the worse on February 5, 1935. Her father died from tuberculosis, and fewer than four years later her mother died from the same disease. Her grandparents were unable to take care of three children under the age of eight, so the family looked for other options. At the time, Buckner Orphans Home only had room for one child, and that was Mrs. Selke. Her two younger brothers were cared for by family members. Selke says she rarely saw her brothers, but understood it wasn’t easy to have visits. She was well taken care of and educated. Buckner schools, hospitals and churches were all on campus. Her graduating class was quite small because most of the boys joined the service during WWII. After graduating at 16, she moved to Corpus Christi with a cousin and took night classes. She eventually moved back to Houston started working and attending night school. She and Mr. Harold Selke, Sr. were married in 1967.
“I’ve lived a fantastic life with my loving husband and children,” said Selke. “The Buckner organization continues to help children today, and if it weren’t for its generosity I don’t know where I would be today. Growing up in an orphanage inspired me to give back. I have volunteered with different organizations over the years, and I’m a member of The Blue Bird Circle here in Houston and a member of The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. Giving back is what you do.”
“We are so excited that Billie decided to call Parkway Place home,” said Susan Phelps, executive director. “It’s fascinating to hear about her childhood and how Buckner was there for her when she needed us the most. Our mission is to transform the lives of vulnerable children, enrich the lives of seniors, and build strong families through Christ-centered values, and that’s exactly what Buckner did and will continue to do for Billie and others.”