Surrounded by friends from her pinochle group at the Newark Senior Center, Norma Bates celebrated her 100th birthday on July 14 by cutting into her cake and playing cards.

When asked about the secret to living to 100, Bates attributed her longevity to “clean living,” citing her church attendance before the pandemic and belief in Christ.

“I don’t do too much to keep myself healthy,” Bates said. “I eat what comes along.”

Bates grew up in Michigan before moving with her husband to Delaware in 1951 when he got a job with the Chrysler tank division. Bates first met her husband at a dance.

“He just came over and asked me to dance. After the dance, he came over and asked me what I liked to do and if I liked hockey games. I said no, I like light opera,” Bates said. “So we never went to a hockey game and we never saw a light opera.”

She was married for 24 years before her husband passed away in 1975. Bates spent much of her time in Delaware in the Newark area, moving to the Brookside neighborhood around 1959.

“No, I wasn’t interested,” Bates said when asked if she ever tried to remarry.

Bates said the fondest memories of her husband were how he would give her random little gifts.

“He treated me wonderfully. He used to shop and he would come home and bring a little something he bought without me knowing it,” Bates said.

Bates moved in with her son in April after an illness. She previously lived independently. Bates’ last job was working as a bookkeeper in a restaurant in Greenville.

Bates said she is amazed by the number of tall buildings that now exist in Wilmington compared to when she moved to the state in the 1950s.

“Years ago, restaurants weren’t even open on Sundays,” Bates said. “We wanted to go out to eat one Sunday, we got all cleaned up and dressed up and couldn’t find a restaurant open.”

Bates said games and puzzles, such as cryptograms, word searches and of course pinochle, help keep her mind sharp. The pinochle group meets once a week.

“I have no special advice, just live a good life and trust in your maker,” Bates said.

Fellow Newark Senior Center member Thomas Brockenbrough turned 101 this month.

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