Bellaire centenarian is celebrated for her work

Photos by SCOTT MCCLOSKEY ABOVE: LUCILLE RUTHERS, who turns 100 years old today, helps with a produce distribution in Bellaire last week. In the background are fellow volunteers Dana Kubic, from left, Carol Williams and Chuck Russell.

BELLAIRE — Lucille Ruthers might be turning 100 years old today — but that’s not slowing her down any.

In fact, Ruthers continues to volunteer during weekly produce distributions at the First United Methodist Church in Bellaire, and during the church’s free community dinners, held the last full week of each month.

It is not just her work ethic that continues to impress people, but her kind spirit as well.

Carol Williams, coordinator of the Living Bread Kitchen at the church, said she has known Ruthers for many years.

“She’s the best woman I’ve ever met. She’s been my role model for 12 years,” Williams said. “She has a kind word for everyone. I’ve never heard her say a disparaging remark about anyone.”

Though her eyesight isn’t what it used to be, Ruthers helps in any way she can. She mans the distribution tables, hands out desserts during the dinners and wipes down dirty tables with bleach water.

“She’s very active for her age. She is a role model,” Williams said.

Ruthers now attends weekly services at the West Bellaire United Methodist Church, but she still is a member of the First UMC. Ruthers said she continues to help the church because it makes her happy.

“I love people. I love to meet with people, the people I work with and those who come in to eat,” she said. “I make salads and clear up tables. We have a good time with all the volunteers and people who come in to eat, too. People come to eat and like the fellowship.”

Ruthers attributes her longevity to staying active and her love of people. When she first got married she worked at Kroger, and back then she waited on people inside the store. That was before there were cash registers out front, she said.

Ruthers was born in Harrisville but also lived in Sewellsville. One of her earliest memories was on her grandfather’s farm.

“I was about 5 and I churned butter while I stood on a chair. I don’t remember much else there,” she said.

Ruthers said there were seven in her family. She had two older brothers and a younger sister. When the moved to a farm in Flushing, her grandfather stayed with them. She remembers when the banks failed in 1929, starting the Great Depression, that everyone was talking about it including the men in her family.

“I never lived where there was electricity until I was 13 or 14,” Ruther added.

She said her father had mules and they worked to bring buggies out of coal mines. He also worked as a blacksmith near Martins Ferry.

Ruther started work at an early age herself. When she was 13 years old she became a housekeeper for a wealthy family in Wheeling. The patriarch of the family was a superintendent at Bloch Bros. Tobacco.

“I earned $2 a week. I lived with the people and cleaned house, washed and ironed,” she said, adding she attended school up until the first part of her freshman year in high school. After that she was on her own and working.

In addition to being their housekeeper, Ruther said she became a companion to the family’s young daughter. She would go on trips with them to Florida.

“When I got married they paid for my wedding,” she said.

In addition to her Kroger job, she also worked a variety of jobs over the years including at the A&P in Wheeling during World War II. She was a Girls Scout leader in the 1960s, and taught Sunday school at the First UMC during the 1970s. In the 1980s she worked at the House of Catering, and from 1971-98 she delivered mail for the Bellaire Post Office. She has been volunteer for the past 20 years.

Ruthers, born in 1919, is the daughter of Roena and Forrest Wheeler. She married William Ruthers, who died in 1998. They had five children together: Bruce (Barb) Ruthers of Bridgeport; Linda (Tom) Owings of Flushing/St. Clairsville; Beth Ruthers of Columbus; Billy, who died in 1945; and Janet, who died in 2005. She has nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

An open house and reception to celebrate Ruthers’ birthday is slated for 2 p.m. today at First UMC, 35th and Guernsey streets. Ruther does not want any gifts, but donations can instead be made to the West Bellaire Methodist Church’s van fund.