By Caleb Revill
Lifelong Dyer resident Ava Gates celebrated her milestone 100th birthday with family on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Gates softly smiles while sitting in her large, cushioned chair. Her light blue eyes are slightly faded and she’s hard of hearing, but she’s attentive and sharp. Gates’ two sons, Jerry Gates and Robert Gates sit with her in the living room watching the news. She said she spends a lot of time watching television now.
Several balloons and a birthday plaque with pictures of her picking cotton on the farm with family members adorn a handrail next to her chair. The plaque reads, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Gates lives near the country roads and stretches of farmland in between Dyer and Yorkville. Her home rests at the top of a hill with a long gravel driveway. There used to be trees on both sides of the driveway entrance, but like many of the homes that once scattered this countryside, they’re all gone now.
“So many people passed away,” Gates said, reflecting on changes she’s seen in the community over the years. “I guess I’m the only one this old that’s living around here, but I have had a good life here and a lot of friends.”
Gates has lived in two different homes at this same location since she moved to the area in 1951. The first home was destroyed by a tornado, where she had lost almost everything and had to rebuild from scratch with help from family and the community.
Today, Gates uses a wheelchair to get around the house with surprising efficiency. She’s developed a sweet tooth over the years, and her favorite treats are honey buns. When asked if she felt any different after turning 100, Gates replied enthusiastically, “It feels good to be 100. I don’t see any difference.”