Family, Neighbors and friends organize a special birthday event
On March 31st of this year, the residents of Banbury Circle in Simpsonville witnessed a parade wending its way down the street past the home where Audre Dix now resides with her daughter Diane. A shiny red firetruck led this cheery procession of cars, each decorated with colorful balloons and signs wishing Audre a “Happy 100th Birthday.” Seated in her wheelchair under a tent in the front yard and surrounded by her beloved family and friends some of whom had traveled a distance to be with her on this special day, a beaming Audre acknowledged the shouted greetings and honking horns as folks drove by. Friends from Simpsonville Baptist Church, neighbors, and grandchildren all got involved in the celebration. It was a day to remember, but then Audre has lived quite an extraordinary life.
Throughout their home, Audre still proudly displays the numerous cards, notes, and balloons that she received for her 100th birthday, and she treasures every gesture made on her behalf. She especially cherishes a letter written to her by Simpsonville Mayor Paul Shewmaker where he honored her birthday.
Audre was born in 1921, one year after women were granted the right to vote nationally. Her grandmother, Sarah Hopkins, was involved in the movement to procure that right for women. World War I had ended just two years earlier, and the dreaded Spanish Flu pandemic beginning in 1918 had finally waned.
Audre Hopkins grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a prominent coal-mining town back in those days. Audre enjoyed the focused attention of her family because she was the sole grandchild until her little brother came along. Even with the Great Depression which occurred during her childhood, Audre says that her family fared well because her father kept a city job as a fireman. Her mother cooked on a coal stove and she baked wonderful cakes, pies, and cookies. Given the shifts that her father worked, he would come home in the early morning hours, and her mother would rise to make him a hearty breakfast on those occasions.
Despite the heavy snowfalls in that area, the schools rarely closed. Audre walked to school as did most children in those days. During the summer, Audre would also stroll to the free public swimming pool every day. She loved swimming and excelled in it. With only the radio for entertainment, the children often played out in the street with other neighborhood kids. In cold weather, they sat in a big kitchen warmed by a coal stove. Three generations might be gathered on those occasions. They would play cards or a game with buttons; they sang a lot. It was a simpler life with more people caring, eating meals together, and talking about stuff.
As a high school student, Audre had a lot of spirit and energy and became the president of the sorority there. At that time, the sorority organized their school dances. Some big-name bands played at her high school dances including Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Guy Lombardo! Audre remembers the lockers for girls and for boys were located on different sides of the school and they also had separate exits.
Shortly after high school, Audre met the love of her life, Frank “Bud” Dix. Her mother had a cottage at Lake Carey in Pennsylvania as did his grandmother. They met at one of the regular Saturday night dances held there. Throughout their relationship, Audre and Bud loved music as well as dancing together. When they decided to get married, the chaplain at Wyoming Seminary, which Bud attended, performed the wedding ceremony on July 4, 1938 because that was the only day people weren’t working! So began a loving and happy marriage that spanned 74 years until Bud passed away in 2012.
After delivering their first child, a son, Audre remained in the hospital for ten days, a common practice at that time. She also stayed in a ward that housed eighteen women which is so unlike the private hospital rooms of today. Audre gave birth to their daughter two years later.
At first, Bud worked for Bell Telephone Company as a door-to-door salesman and then progressed to corporate sales. He never forgot those days in which he struggled to sell phones to individuals. Whenever a salesman would come to his door, he would listen to their pitch and buy their product. Bud’s father played football for Penn State and the family became lifetime fans of this team.
When the children were grown, Audre and Bud traveled across the United States and throughout Canada in an Airstream RV, chocking up one precious memory after another. As “snowbirds,” they alternated living between Florida and New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. There were two trips to England and one to Ireland, and a special cruise trip to celebrate their 60th anniversary. And everywhere they went, Audrey and Bud would talk to people and get to know them.
In 2005, Audre and Bud moved to Simpsonville to live near their daughter Diane. She had relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1993 to be near her son. Moving to a new town in a different part of the country could pose challenges at their age, but Audre and Bud embraced their new home and the community loved them as well. Sometimes, they would attend Penn Club meetings to find other people from Pennsylvania. Audre recalled one such meeting where a
woman was sitting all by herself and looking sad. Audre reached out to her and at the end of the evening, the lady paid for her meal, declaring that Audre was the first person to talk to her.
Diane says that her mother “always wanted to do something that would help people.” Audre volunteered at the library, read to people at her church, participated in their prayer ministry, and helped with Meals on Wheels. At times, she would have difficulty getting her car to start but the people at the fire department helped her with this on several occasions. So, it was fitting that the firetruck should lead in her birthday parade!
The secret to Audre’s longevity surely resides in her ability to enjoy life itself. When asked about her favorite foods, she provided a list that included cake, ice cream, cookies, and chocolate! In fact, she eats something sweet every day. And when she and Bud used to go out to dinner, Audre made sure to order the dessert with the main course just in case they ran out. The irony is that Audre has retained a slim figure throughout her life!
When asked what advice she would give young people today, Audre declared, “Find something you love to do and keep doing it.” Diane concurred and added that you are always at your best doing something you like, and you cannot help but enjoy doing it. In answer a remark about her having had a good life, Audre broke out in a smile and quipped, “I’ve got no complaints!”
Diane summed it up nicely when she said that her mother has been “a wonderful person for a long time,” and “nice stuff happens when you go with Mom.” Indeed, a thankful heart, a joyous spirit, and kindness to others never go out of style.
Diane especially wanted to thank the folks at Open Arms Hospice, associated McCall Hospice of Greenville and run by Bon Secours. They have helped her care for her mother in many critical ways.
The Simpsonville Sentinel would like to wish Audre Dix a very “Happy 100th Birthday!”■