A shadow box on the wall holds the tiny booties, a bonnet and brown curly locks of hair of an Alton woman who celebrated her 100th birthday at United Methodist Village.
Dia Venardos said she never really thought much about reaching the age of 100 when she was younger, but she’s sure happy she has reached the milestone.
“Things I’ve seen over 100 years are amazing,” Venardos said. “The space stations are grand and the wars were ravenous. I had two brothers in World War II. My oldest brother was sent to China first and his stories were so interesting of his experiences. My younger brother left after him and was sent to India. They both ended up stationed together at one time. I remember writing letters to them. It was a very scary time.”
Born in Alton Nov. 9, 1914, Venardos spent her entire life in the Riverbend, working at Olin Brass in the marketing department.
“I really loved my job,” she said. “It’s the only job I ever had in my lifetime. I must say that Alton has changed so much over the years. In some ways it has gone down a little bit, but it’s still my home. I really love Alton.”
Venardos’ father was the owner of Venardos’ Chocolates on the corner of Third and Piasa in downtown Alton.
“My father owned the shop from 1900 to 1929,” Venardos said. “He sold the shop when I was 12 years old. One of my favorite treats he brought home was the chocolate marshmallows.”
Never having married, Venardos has been living at the United Methodist Village for about 15 years.
“I lived here independently for 11 years, but after my stroke five years ago, I’ve been on the assisted living side,” Venardos said. “I really enjoy living here and I’m so touched that everyone is thinking of me on my birthday.”
Venardos’ cousin and fellow United Methodist Village resident Edith Kolkmeyer attended the party.
“Life really changes over time; time changes things,” Kolkmeyer said. “Family is so important. Kids are a blessing and if you can have more than one, I suggest doing so. Being an involved mother is so important. I have three kids and being a presence in children’s lives is the best advice I can give younger generations.”
Donna Blackston of the Royal Neighbors organization attended the party and provided doughnuts for residents as they celebrated a 100-year life.
“The Royal Neighbors are community volunteers that love to give back to several organizations,” Blackston said. “We’ve donated and volunteered at nursing homes, animal shelters and hospitals. We love finding ways to make a difference for others.”
Future birthdays are being seen as a blessing for Venardos.
“Birthdays come and go when you get to be my age,” she said. “But I hope they can keep coming for a little while longer.”