Ruth DeWyre to turn 100 on Thursday
ALPENA – This 99-year-old never thought she’d live to see 100, but she will become a centenarian on Thursday, March 4.
“I had no idea,” she said of making it this far. “I have days when I feel pretty good, and then there’s other days … I have Parkinson’s disease and heart trouble.”
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, though. Poised in a lovely purple paisley dress and wearing lipstick, you can tell this lady is classy. She lives in her own apartment at a senior living facility in Alpena.
She said she doesn’t really have a big secret for living a long life, but she has stayed active over the years, walking daily. She uses a walker inside now, but, up until a few years ago, she was walking outside when the weather allowed.
“After I retired, I walked a lot,” she said. “I used to walk outside — two miles.”
Changes in nursing field
She’s seen a lot of changes over the years, especially in the medical field. She was a nurse for many years.
“When I started nurses’ training, that’s when we had polio,” she said. “And then penicillin was discovered.”
Before that, they had no antibiotics, she remembered. She added that she doesn’t recall giving out many medications because there were so few available.
“We did give morphine a couple of times,” she said. “And we did have oxygen machines.
“I was a farm girl to start with,” DeWyre said. “Then I went into nurses’ training and proceeded from there.”
She retired from nursing at age 65.
“I did work in different areas at times,” she recalled, noting that her favorite part about being a nurse was “just to see people get well. I worked in the OB department for quite a long time in Rogers City at the hospital, when it was going.”
She enjoyed working with the newborn babies. She also worked in surgery at the Rogers City hospital.
“Then I went downstate,” she said.
She went down to work at Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo in the surgery department.
She and her husband, William DeWyre, had five children — four boys and a girl — but one of the twin boys died recently. William died in 1993.
Their eldest child, Jim DeWyre, and his wife Linda DeWyre, accompanied Ruth during the interview.
“She was born in Sturgis, Michigan,” Jim explained. “She went to nursing school in South Bend, Indiana.”
“They moved north, and I went into nurses’ training,” Ruth recalled of her parents. “I was their first-born.”
Because of that, her parents put her to work on the farm at a young age.
She grew up on a farm in Sturgis and helped out plowing since she was young, probably about 10 or 11.
Her parents, Garnet and Agnes Rhodie, moved to Hawks (Belknap area), and that’s where she ended up settling later on, as well.
Jim and Linda met at Rogers City High School.
“And they never had a phone at their farm when he was in high school,” Linda recalled.
“We never had a TV most of the time,” Jim said.
“The neighbors told us to be prepared to walk to Hawks in the winter time, down the railroad tracks,” Ruth said. “That road was never plowed.”
Once they moved in, the mail route started coming around, so their road started getting plowed, Ruth said.
Downstate, when Ruth was a child, she walked to school at a one-room schoolhouse.
“Dad was a farmer, and then he worked in a meat-packing company,” Ruth said. “To make extra money. He didn’t make much farming.”
She walked about two to three miles to school.
“And the roads were never plowed much,” she said. “That was the main road between Detroit and Chicago. By Sturgis, Michigan. That was only about a mile from the Indiana line.”
Her school was first through eighth grade.
“There was an outhouse,” she recalled. “One for girls and one for boys.
“And then in the summertime we’d have gypsies come around,” she added. “There were bad gypsies and there were good gypsies. So those gypsies were always checked on by the sheriff’s department to make sure they were OK. Because some of them gypsies would steal from farmers and that.”
She added that “very few kids went to high school at that time,” but she was one of the fortunate ones who went.
“We did graduate from high school,” Ruth said of her and her two girlfriends.
More girls attended high school than boys at that time, because the boys were working on farms and doing manual labor.
Back to present day
DeWyre has lived in Alpena for more than 25 years.
She says she just eats two meals a day. She never drank alcohol, but she did smoke as an adult, quitting in her 60s.
“My appetite is slowing down,” she said. “I do my own cooking. I used to bake a lot.”
“She made a pie every week,” Linda recalled.
As for COVID-19, “They said I had a touch of it,” Ruth noted.
She had to quarantine for 10 days, but she got over it just fine, as far as she can tell. As of Feb. 18, she was on the list to get her first vaccine shot, but she had not received a call to come in yet, the DeWyres said.
“I had 19 great-grandkids,” Ruth said. “One is deceased, so that makes 18 living. I have 11 grandkids.”
She talks to her grandkids on the phone, but, as far as using technology for Zoom calls or FaceTime, “she’s not into that stuff,” Jim said.
To keep her mind and her hands busy, she likes to crochet. When her son and daughter-in-law came to visit her on Feb. 18, she set aside a hanging towel for which she was crocheting the top.
“They’re real nice,” Linda said, adding that she makes them for her daughter who lives down in Vicksburg, Michigan.
“I’ve crocheted doilies and afghans,” Ruth said.
“She made blankets for all the grandkids and the great-grandkids when they were born,” Linda said.
Crocheting, walking and watching TV are her primary pastimes, but she has a few others, such as reading.
“She likes shopping,” Linda added. “She watches the news on TV.”
“Yeah, the TV’s going from the time I get up till I go to bed,” Ruth said. “And half the time I’m not listening to it, either.”
Travel in the U.S.
She used to travel, as well.
“I used to take my folks down to Florida — I’d drive them down and fly back, and then in the spring I’d fly down to go get them,” Ruth said. “I stayed a week when I took them down.”
She traveled some other places in the U.S.
“I took trips to Washington, D.C.,” she added. “My son took me out to South Dakota, to the Badlands. That was interesting.”
She noted that years ago she actually toured the White House.
“That, you can’t see now,” Ruth said. “We could go in and see and everything. And all the other activities going on around there.”
Since the riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, she doubts that visitors will be able to go into the Capitol or any of the governmental buildings in Washington, D.C.
“That part, people will probably never get to see anymore,” she said.
She recalls falling behind the White House.
“Well, in those days, your shoes had leather soles,” she said. “So it was slippery. Down I went.”
And up her age goes. She is the last surviving and eldest of five siblings.
The best advice Ruth can give is to “just enjoy things as they go along.”
To send Ruth a card, mail it to: 451 Pinecrest, Apt. 28, Alpena MI 49707.