ASHEBORO — She wore a tiara and a sash that read “100 Years Loved.”
Ava Routh was born Sept. 20, 1923, 100 years ago last Wednesday. To honor her, she was celebrated by family and friends at Pinewood Country Club.
She shares her birth year with Bob Barker, Rocky Marciano, Hank Williams Sr. and Chuck Yeager. She’s outlived them all.
In 1923, Calvin Coolidge became president, succeeding the assassinated Warren G. Hardin. A new house was priced at $7,750, a new car cost $640, you could rent a house for $15 bucks a month or fill your gas tank at a quarter a gallon. Writing letters was still in fashion and you could mail one for 2 cents.
Ava Routh was one of Virgil Hill’s 15 children by two wives. They lived on a farm near Ridge’s Mountain near Caraway Creek, west of Asheboro.
“We had to walk a mile and a half to the school bus,” which went to Asheboro, Ava said. To get around, the family rode their father’s Model T.
In an age before TV, Routh said her dad bought a Delco generator to supply electricity to play their radio. It also powered their lights.
“Daddy had a light on a pole at the barn for security,” she said, adding that he had rigged the door to the smokehouse with a bell that would ring when someone entered. One night the bell rang and he turned on the light on the pole, revealing a man walking through the barnyard with a ham on his shoulder — caught red-handed.
Growing up on a farm was a hard life, Routh said. She remembered climbing up into the barn loft to pack hay. They had cows and would send their shepherd dog to round them up at milking time.
Once the cows were milked, they used a device to separate the cream, which they churned into butter. Some of the cream was picked up by someone to take to the creamery.
Ava Hill met Brower Routh when his sister married her brother. After Ava graduated from high school in 1941, she and Brower were married.
He entered the service and was stationed in the Pacific during World War II. He came down with malaria and was sent to Australia for treatment.
When Brower came home, he and Ava opened Routh’s Groceries on US 64 east of Asheboro. They lived in a four-room house for several years and started a family — four boys.
Meanwhile, Brower continued to get treatments for his wartime maladies. Don, the second son, said they had treated his malaria with quinine during the war. Later, trips to the VA Hospital revealed damage to Brower’s pancreas. He died in 1966 when their youngest, Frank, was just 6 years old.
Left a widow with three sons still at home — Eddie graduated high school that year — Ava began working at various drug stores, including for Sonny Edmondson at Asheboro Drug, where she retired at age 92.
Ava for many years has lived in a ranch-style brick home near the four-room house she and Brower had rented. Family members take turns staying with her during the day and two ladies alternate spending nights with her.
So what does she attribute to her long life? “Work, I guess,” Ava said. “I grew up the hard way on a farm. I never thought I’d live to be that old. But Daddy lived close to it.”
During the birthday celebration, Judy Newsome played the piano while friends and family visited. Then Jean Routh, married to Don, asked the four brothers to talk about their mother.
Eddie said, “When our father died, it about killed us, but we went on. Nobody had a better mother than we had.”
Tommy said it was a challenge for his mother to “maintain her cognitive skills.” But her memory was highlighted to him when she “reminded me what a laborious task it was to bring me into the world. She worked hard to raise four boys.”
Don agreed with his brothers: “You raised us and we did alright.” He told a tale of the time he and Tommy spilled dishwashing liquid on the floor, spread it around and began skating on it. “Then Mom stepped on it and went down. Mama was a good forgiver. Thank you for being such a wonderful mother for us.”
Frank said, “I was the youngest and when Dad passed, I was 6. Mom was a single parent but had a lot of help.”
The Routh family lived across US 64 from the old Pugh Airfield. Ava had told the older boys not to let Frank go over there by himself. One day she was napping when the boys shouted that Frank was going to the airport. She got to him in time to prevent a catastrophe.
Frank has now been a commercial pilot for more than 30 years.
But Ava is proud of all her sons. And they’re proud to have her as their mom.