Dykes wears many hats, roles in 100 years of life

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Maxine Dykes celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 1, 2021.

For many people, the coming of the new year brings a fresh start, new perspective and new beginnings. For Maxine Dykes, the new year also marks the start of a second century in world.

Jan. 1, 2021 marked the 100th birthday for Dykes, who was born a in Bells and spent nearly a quarter century working with the Sherman Independent School District, along with her roles as a wife and single mother later.

Recently, she wrote a lengthy autobiography about her life.

Dykes was born Maxine Buchanan in 1921 to Jasmine Odessa Marvin and Harry Donald Buchanan who lived in the small, rural Bells until she was three years old. Throughout her younger years, Dykes would travel throughout Texas and into Kansas and California, among other places, as her father sought employment.

At the age of three, Dykes contracted what was then known as "infantile paralysis," but is now more commonly known as polio. During he treatment, Dykes said an iron weight was attached to her leg and slung over the end of her bed to keep her leg straight.

Dykes was lucky in that the disease only left her with a slight limp and the need for a brace and specialized shoes until she was 11 years old.

In the mid-1920s, Dykes and her family moved to Kansas in search of work. It was during this time, while living in the big city, that her family received the modern luxury of an ice box and regularly deliveries of cold ice.

Dykes' family moved to Kansas in the mid-to-late 20s where her father ended up working with the railroad.

It was during her stay in Kansas that Dykes had a second health scare as a child. She remembers the yellow placards that families would place in their windows, marking that someone inside was suffering from smallpox.

Her family got their placard when she contracted the illness at school. Soon, the entire family was sick, and ultimately the entire neighborhood was quarantined.

Dykes returned to Bells in the 1930s, but missed a year of school in the transition. However, she was able to test out of it and was allowed to skip a grade.

It was also in the 1930s when she first met Glendon Cherry, who would go on to become her first husband soon after graduating from high school.

Dykes lived with her in-laws early on in the marriage. Cherry worked in farming before transitioning into dairy work.

By this time, World War II had started to reach its peak and the United State entered into the conflict in late 1941. Dykes recalled the rationing that took place at home as many resources went to the war effort. Her husband was deferred from the draft due to his work in a vital industry.

"The pride we felt as Americans was indescribable. After our victory over the Axis powers, our country stood alone as a superpower and a leader of the world," Dykes wrote of that time in the biography. "America's prosperity increased, a new era opened, and America has been growing in power and moving forward ever since. But it took war to attain and war is too terrible a price to pay."

Maxine Dykes, right, celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 1, 2021.

In the 1950s, the couple had two children: Daniel Scott and Donna Sue.

Dykes became a single mother about three years after the birth of Donna when Glendon Cherry passed in 1958 following a diagnosis of kidney disease.

Life as a single mother led Dykes to move back home with her parents in the 1960s. Under the recommendation of family, Dykes resumed her education and studied business at Austin College. 

She said she stood out from her classmates at that time, some who were half her age.

"I was admitted to attend regular classes, and at age 42, I felt a little bit out of place, but students and teachers welcomed me," she wrote in the biography. "My report card was mailed to Mama and Dad. They teased me about that."

With her education, Dykes began a short career in the banking industry when she started working at Citizens National Bank in Denison.

The 1960s also saw LeRoy Dykes enter her life. She was introduced to LeRoy by friends. The couple soon married and made a blended family with their children.

A desire to be home with her growing family during the holidays and summer led Dykes to change careers. Around 1963, she started work as a secretary at Piner Middle School. Over the next 23 years, she would rise to become the principal's secretary — a position she would have under four principals at the school.

Dykes remembers the days using a manual typewriter, which was later replaced with an electric model. It was around the time of her retirement in 1986 that the school upgraded to using computers.

The 1990s and her retirement saw a transition in Dyke's life. After 30 years of marriage, LeRoy Dykes passed away in 1993 following a stroke. Four years later, her father would pass away at the age of 96.

It was in the late 90s and early 2000s that Dykes increased her social life by joining the Finley Social Club and holding parties and events with friends. During one of these parties, she was introduced to Herman Flusche, who asked to take her home that night. After a few declined coffee invitations, the two began a close friendship that might have led to marriage, if it wasn't for their age.

Nowadays, as she enters life as a centenarian, family members said Dykes enjoys spending her time reading, especially mystery books. She also enjoys watching movies, often commenting when a movie does not have enough action in it. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dykes was unable to spend her birthday with much of her extended family, which includes dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. However, the family was able to wish her a happy birthday and holiday through a series of video cards and greetings.