A baby girl born in 1912 could expect to live about 52 years. Today’s baby girls can expect to reach 81 years. Ruth Rasmussen beats both estimates. She is 101 years old today, celebrating quietly at Pratt Rehabilitation and Residence Center, where she has lived for about a year and a half.
She was doing fine alone at home, until she “swatted a bug and forgot to hang on,” resulting in a fall. Family members suggested she join Lowell, her husband of nearly eight decades, at the care center. He died in January of this year.
“We’re family here,” Rasmussen said.
On the day before her birthday, she had joined other residents at a ladies’ tea, with special foods served on special china. On Sundays, she attends Sunday School and afternoon services brought by members of various churches in Pratt.
She’s a whiz at word puzzles, son Denis said, and has gone through nearly every book Pratt has to offer. There’s a TV in her room, but she says she doesn’t watch it.
It’s been a good life.
She was born and raised on a farm in Foster, Neb., along with a brother two years older and a younger brother who joined the family when she was 11. It was like having a baby doll.
“I had a wonderful life,” she said. “I had parents, who back in those days, stayed home and raised their kids.”
There’s no misunderstanding her message: 100 years ago, society was better suited for strong families.
After high school, she attended normal school to become a teacher. She never taught; instead, she got married.
When she was a young woman, all the farmers went to town on Saturday night to sell their cream and eggs. A carry-out boy in one of the stores asked his schoolmate about that girl with the fur collar, and suggested that she should be invited to the next Saturday night party for young people.
Lowell and Ruth Rasmussen were married on June 16, 1933.
The country was in the grips of the Great Depression and a years-long drought termed the Dirty Thirties, but she doesn’t recall hard times. When World War II broke out, the Rasmussens were living in Haviland, where Lowell was enrolled at Friends Bible College (now Barclay College), studying to become a minister. He was drafted, and chose alternative service at a shipyard in Vallejo, Calif.
He completed his studies for the ministry at Cascade College inWashington, and they accepted their first pastorate in Colorado. It was always a joint effort, Rasmussen said, and a couple of times she even preached.
One time, he came home sick after Sunday School, and the question was asked, “who’s going to preach?”
“The Lord said to me, you are,” Rasmussen said. “I used his notes and Scriptures but my thoughts.”
Together they served churches in Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas, before retiring to Pratt, where Denis Rasmussen had just purchased Ayres-Calbeck Mortuary.
Their other son, Wayne, died in 2005.
Rasmussen offers no particular advice for a long life or a long and happy marriage. Her father lived to be 85, the same age as his older brother. Ruth and Lowell Rasmussen never fought or argued, although they did disagree. She knew early on she would get no sympathy from home for marital quarrels.
“My mother was so partial to Lowell,” she recalled. “Lowell could do no wrong. She told me, ‘if you ever disagree, you can’t come home to Mother.’”
Lowell’s parents must have had similar feelings for her.
“Nobody had better in-laws than we did,” she said.
She stays in touch with friends from churches they served. On Monday, a friend dropped by to bring a Christmas newsletter for her final approval before mailing it out to 40 people.
Her family includes son Denis and wife Verlene, daughter-in-law Marguerite, seven grandchildren, 15 great-great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.