May 16, 2012

Memories live on with passing of special friends


A farm kid and farm wife, she and Warren lived all their married life on her great-grandfather's farm, worked through hardships and celebrations, raised their children there and on April 27 said goodbye there.

Betty may be gone, but the maple trees she tapped — just last year — are still there, the old woodstove in the kitchen where she boiled the sap and kept the winter chill away is still there. So is the open door to anyone who wants to stop by for tea between 4 and 4:30 p.m., a custom started by her grandmother when Betty was still in school, carried on by Warren and family. For family and friends around the kitchen table, the tea and blondies (her special cookie recipe) are sweet, and so are the memories.

The "city" lady was Ruth Alden Jones Ryan, who at 103 was still living in her home, with her beloved cat and several generations of family memories. I met Ruthie when I interviewed her in the summer of 1997. She was 88, had buried her husband the year before and decided pity wasn't in her vocabulary. She dusted off her artwork from earlier years and embarked on a card-printing business named Hug Bugs.

We were at ease with each other, like friends who hadn't been in touch for a while, her sparkly blue eyes twinkling as she shared her family's stories. She was a sickly kid until about 7 — "Every time the doctor's carriage was in front of our house, the neighbors would air their mourning clothes getting ready for me to die" — but determined to reach at least 100.

With steadfast Yankee blood, Ruthie lived life to the fullest, attending a New York City art institute; writing a column for national art magazines; working in oils, photography and ceramics; and opening a gift shop with her sister, Eleanor, named "My Sister and I."

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