From antifreeze to the moon landing, 101-year-old matriarch reflects on century’s highlights

CEDAR CITY — Longtime Piute County resident Irva Sudweeks recently celebrated her 101st birthday, with dozens of family members gathering for a buffet lunch at the Golden Corral restaurant in Cedar City.

Family members gather to celebrate the 101st birthday of Irva Sudweeks, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Approximately 90 family members spanning five generations celebrated the milestone one day after her actual birthday, including posing for a group photo afterward. Some folks came from as far away as Salt Lake City or Las Vegas.

After she finished her lunch, Sudweeks went around and greeted her descendants at each table, giving plenty of hugs, kisses and words of appreciation.

Sudweeks, who resides in Kingston near Circleville, is the matriarch of a family includes four children, 22 grandchildren, 85 great-grandchildren and 22 great-great-grandchildren.

“And a lot more great-greats on the way,” she said.

Sudweeks was born in the tiny Garfield County town of Widtsoe, near Bryce Canyon, on Jan. 24, 1919, the seventh of 13 children of Robert B. Gleave and Maud Snyder Gleave. 

Although Widtsoe has been a ghost town since the 1930s, Sudweeks said she still has many fond memories of that place.

During her childhood, her family’s main mode of transportation was a wagon and horses, Sudweeks told Cedar City News.

Irva Sudweeks greets one of her many descendants during her 101st birthday celebration, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We didn’t even have a buggy,” she said.

“I had a good, swift horse,” she said, recounting an experience wherein she was tasked with keeping the ewes and rams separated in a flock of sheep, so that the rams could be sold.

“I was reading my book, and they were almost together,” she recalled. “So I got on that horse and my mother said I rode like the wind. I went through ditches and everything, but I kept them apart.” 

Sudweeks said she and her siblings attended school in Widtsoe during the wintertime, then would work at home on the farm from spring until fall. She recalls having fun attending dances with her older brothers in nearby towns such as Tropic, Antimony and Henrieville.

When asked what was the biggest change she had seen in the past century, Sudweeks first spoke of riding in an airplane, then mentioned the 1969 moon landing … which happened just over 50 years ago when she was 50 years old.

“Everything’s changed, and it’s still changing,” she said, before thinking of yet another milestone.

“Who’d ever think of your radiator freezing up on your car?” she said, recalling needing to keep her car’s radiator warm with a quilt and by pouring hot water into it.

“Prestone, you know, there was no such thing as Prestone,” added Sudweeks, who still drives occasionally and recently renewed her driver license for another six years.

A graduate of Piute High School, Sudweeks has lived in Piute County for more than eight decades. She married her first husband Bob Brindley in 1938. They had three children before Bob died unexpectedly in 1946 at age 31.

In 1947, Irva met and later married Pete Sudweeks and they had one more son together. Irva’s children and children-in-law are Charley Brindley of Cedar City; Linda Brindley of Enoch (widow of the late Jerald “Dude” Brindley, Irva’s son); Ron and Nancy Englestead of Cedar City (Ron’s late first wife Juana is Irva’s daughter); and Bill and Joyce Sudweeks of Kingston.

Sudweeks’ family members say they hope the centenary birthday tradition, which started last year with a 100th birthday open house in Circleville, will continue for years to come. 

“We’ll be here again next year!” granddaughter Jennifer Weaver said.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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