A local woman marked a terrific milestone on Sunday. Surrounded by more than 75 family members and friends at Pruitt Health Care, Reba Hayes celebrated her 100th birthday.
“Since her 99th birthday, friends have commented to Reba, ‘Amazing! You will be 100 next year,’ to which she usually replied, ‘I hope that I can keep my health to make it,’” said her daughter, Ann Garner.
Despite declining health for the past four years, Hayes was all smiles on Sunday as she sat next to her birthday cake and received well wishes from friends and family.
Hayes is described as “so sweet” and loved by all who meet her, Garner said.
Birthday cake, appetizers and punch were served at the party as friends shared memories of times spent with Hayes. A floral centerpiece was placed in morning worship services at Elkin Valley Baptist Church in her honor. She is the oldest living member of the church and was baptized with her late husband Lee Roy as they were married and began their lives together. The Spirit Lifters at the church encouraged everyone to send birthday cards so that she might receive 100 cards, one for each year she has lived.
Hayes’ actual birthday is today and church members plan to do further celebrating with her.
Recollections on Reba from her daughter Ann Garner
The year was 1914…
In January, Ford Motor Company announced an eight-hour workday and a minimum wage of $5 for a day’s labor. Legend Babe Ruth made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. In May, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Mother’s Day Proclamation and on Aug. 4, the United States declared neutrality in the first stages of World War I that had begun in June.
Reba Hayes was born that year in the Union Cross area of Surry County near Dobson on Aug. 27. Her parents, Bessie Jane Caudle and James Vance White, were married in August of 1908 and already had a daughter, Empress, at Reba’s birth. They ran a small grocery store located across from the current Union Cross Baptist Church. Long hours of work left much responsibility for caring for the house and helping with new siblings to Empress and Reba.
Reba remembered learning to make biscuits while standing on a chair at the table beside her mother. Her skills for the kitchen, developed in early childhood, carried throughout the years. The growing family included the births of Lala, Hazel, Colleen, J.V. and Joe. Hayes remembered Lala helping bring in wood to tend the stove while Hazel and Colleen did other chores.
When asked about the boys, she said, “Well, you know how boys are, always outside running and playing.” Hayes learned to help with the sewing and recalls making dresses for customers for 50 cents, which she commented took a long time to make for one particularly large woman.
At the age of 12, she moved with her family to Elkin to open a new grocery store and to build a home on North Bridge Street in the vicinity of the present Life Store Insurance Company. It was here that Reba was to meet her future husband.
A love story
Lee Roy Hayes lived just up the street with his parents, Granville Webster Hayes and Edith Masten Hayes, and sisters Mae, Opal, Helen, Betty, and Edith. Since he was the oldest and the only boy, Lee Roy also had many chores and was forced to drop out of school at age 15 to help his dad at Chatham Manufacturing Company. Webster hurt his back while working at the loading docks and Lee Roy began to help with loading and driving a company truck. The family would have been without income without Lee Roy’s help. From this early age, Lee Roy developed work habits that would lead him to later become a supervisor in the Spinning Department and to be the first employee to work 50 years for the company.
Lee Roy’s favorite memory of the first time he saw Reba was to smile and say, “She was just 12 and I was 11, but she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and I knew I would marry her one day.” And he did on Oct. 28, 1933, when she turned 19.
Theirs was a true story book marriage that would span 80 years of love and devotion to each other. They took her cousin Bertice Bates with them as a witness and went to Hillsville, Virginia, to be married by a Justice of the Peace. Reba recalls her mom and dad making a big wedding supper for the families and their living with her folks until they could get a rental home
Their first car was a used 1930 Model A Ford Roadster on which they made $5 monthly payments. With only $20 owed, they were about to lose the car until a dear friend loaned Lee Roy the money. Over the years, Reba worked in the Binding Department at Chatham when called in to work large orders. She was a devoted homemaker who loved to cook, garden, can and freeze vegetables, make jelly and sew. Reba and Lee Roy were devoted Christians and influenced the lives of many as they attended Elkin Valley Baptist Church where Reba taught in the primary class for over 30 years. As Lee Roy always said, “Ah Shaw, times were hard, but we lived on love!”
100 years strong
Reba was a devoted wife to her husband until his passing at the age of 98 on Oct. 4, 2013, just days short of their 80th wedding anniversary. She was a loving mother to her son, David Lee, who passed in 2010. She continues to bring joy to the lives of her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Garner, and to her five grandchildren, Terry Patterson, Danny Hayes, Jennifer Hall, Gretchen Kirkman and Scott Hollar. She enjoys visits and loves to share candy treats with her nine great-grandchildren, Emily Wing, Jessica McLean, Luke Patterson, Jordan Hayes, Mary Frances Hall, Harrison Hall, Lily Kirkman, Rose Kirkman and Anniston Hollar. All her family miss visiting her at home and tell her often how much they enjoyed her wonderful dinners, holidays and great times shared with her and Papa, and of course her great desserts.
“She is Granny to all who know and love her. We marvel at her reaching the 100 year mark,” Garner said.