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BRIGHTON — Positivity and laughter are the secrets to living a long life, according to Brighton resident Ava Winkler, who turned 100 years old last week.

Winkler was all smiles during a birthday party April 18 with her friends at Vernon Park Apartments and was surprised when Mayor Dick McLean stopped by to proclaim April 18 Ava Winkler Day.


“I feel great because I love friends,” she said. “I feel great and you know, I haven’t always been feeling great, but I do today.”

Her niece Jacki Masters said her aunt has a wonderful attitude and that she was thrilled to be able to fly in from Kalama, Wash.

“I was able to come down last year for her 99th birthday and hoping that this day would come,” she said. “She may not get around as well as she did when she was younger, but she’s as sharp as a tack.” 

Masters said Winkler was the oldest of six children and is the only one alive today. 

Winkler was born in the sand hills of Nebraska and moved to Chicago in 1936 to go to beauty school. After beauty school, she decided to pursue a childhood dream and moved to Denver. She arrived with her then-3-year-old son Jerry Forte and had $7 in her purse.

In Denver, Winkler worked at the Brown Palace Hotel for three and a half years, where she got to meet lots of celebrities like Katharine Hepburn, Cher and Dolly Parton. She also shook hands with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who — as she recalled — was 45 minutes late.

After working at the Brown Palace, Winkler started her own beauty shop in North Denver around 38th Avenue, which she operated for more than 20 years. Masters said Winkler decided moved to Brighton when she was ready to retire. Winkler has been living at Vernon Park Apartments for 30 years. 

Her Vernon Park Apartment friends Josefine Zamudio, Susan Brown and Bonnie Tiller often accompany Winkler on walks around the neighborhood and also commented on her positive attitude. 

Zamudio has been friends with Winkler for about three years and said she loves everything about her, especially her stories. Brown said Ava was the first person to greet her when she moved into the apartments and didn’t know too many people.

“She’s always got a smile on her face, a funny story to tell you and she’s got lots of stories from her past,” Brown said.