Four generations of family - Ada Avila

FOUR GENERATIONS — Ada Avila, front and center, poses with members of three generations of her family. From left are her great-granddaughter Megan O’Connell, her daughter, Gracia Diaz, and her granddaughter Tracy Hart.

Deltona resident Ada Avila celebrated a big birthday this year — 111. While her birthday parties typically feature visits from some of her 37 direct descendants, things were a bit different this year.

“We’ve got cousins who live in Georgia, New York, California, Australia and many people back in Ecuador; really just all over the place.” said John O’Connell, a great-grandson-in-law of Avila’s. 

The family organized a 60-person Zoom call to celebrate their matriarch. While accommodating a group that large on the computer meeting platform is not easy, and not necessarily recommended, “It can be done,” O’Connell said. 

Avila is not just a centenarian — someone who has lived for 100 years — she is a “supercentenarian,” someone who has lived for 110 years. As of Jan. 22, 2021, the Gerontology Research Group — an organization that researches and catalogs information about the oldest living people — has verified 22 living supercentenarians, all of whom are women. 

According to the database maintained by this group, the oldest verified living human is Kane Tanaka, a 118-year-old Japanese woman.

There are definitely more than 22 living supercentenarians though, because Avila is not on this list. 

Family story

Ada Felicita Avila was born in 1910 in Ecuador. 

Old photo, Ada Avila

BLAST FROM THE PAST — Ada Avila, who celebrates her 111th birthday this year, is shown with her husband Manuel Avila and their children Gracia, Myrna, Jenny, Verdi, Edgar and Manuel.

“As a youth, she remembers riding horses at her sister's farm and dancing at dinner parties her mother, Mariana de Jesus, would host for town officials,” O’Connell told The Beacon. “In Manta, Ecuador, she became a principal of a school and would travel around to small villages to teach kids how to read and write.”

Avila immigrated to the United States in 1955 with her husband and children. The family lived in New York until 1979, when they moved to then-unincorporated Deltona. 

“They came to Florida for freedom. Feeling cramped in an NYC apartment, they chose Florida for its natural beauty and space to grow children without the dangers of the big city,” O’Connell said. “They spent most of their weekends traveling to the many parks and beaches in and around Volusia County.”

At 111, Avila lives with her daughter, who is in her 70s. O’Connell said his great-grandmother-in-law is happy, healthy and has never once been hospitalized. Avila is also active in the community, and involved with her church, St. Ann’s Catholic Church in DeBary. 

O’Connell said his wife treasures the opportunity to have her great-grandmother alive and well. 

“To have someone so old in her family is very cool,” he said. “The big family reunions on her side of the family are all centered on her. It’s a very special opportunity to bring everyone together.”

Avila doesn’t speak much English, but thanks to translations by members of her family, she was able to pass along some advice.

“Her advice after all these years: Love God, and love your family,” O’Connell said. “Her secret to living a long life? Well, that's a secret.”