Lehigh Valley Centenarians
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While the thought of growing old is frightening to some, it is often said that the alternative is much worse. To reach 100 is an extraordinary gift, and those who do it usually have equally extraordinary stories to tell. Meet Ruth, Elizabeth, Angie and Theresa, four captivating women who prove that 100 is a milestone worth celebrating.
Ruth K. Van Leer, 101
Country Meadows, Allentown
What advice would you give to someone in their twenties?
I would tell them to first go to school and get an excellent education. Then, get a good job so you can take care of yourself and your loved ones. Work hard but also be sure to take vacation, travel and discover all the wonderful experiences that this world offers. Be healthy. If someone offers you a cigarette, just say “NO.” When you encounter difficulties and life gets tough, keep on pushing forward—never give up. Have fun.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Working as a timekeeper at the Sunoco Marcus Hook refinery. When WWII began and the men were enlisting into the service, the refinery needed women to take [what were] traditionally men’s jobs. I applied right away and was hired as the refinery timekeeper. My girlfriends at the refinery and I were proud to be the first women at the refinery in these new roles and proud to make our contributions to the war effort. I never looked back, and I worked at the refinery for over ten years until
my daughter was born.
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I was younger, I liked many activities that are not possible for me to do now. I bowled with several teams, spent weekends at the Jersey shore, walked for exercise and traveled all over the USA and in Italy with family and friends.
I still like to do cryptograms. Every day, I solve the Philadelphia Inquirer cryptogram. A fellow at the refinery showed me how to do them. When I moved to Allentown, I taught my daughter. Now, we work on the daily cryptogram together. I am good getting them started and she helps with the longer words.
I also like to walk as much as I can and ride the exercycle several times a week. I join in Country Meadows activities—exercise classes, weekly bingo, singing hymns, music performances in the living room. I like to go on the special trips that Country Meadows organizes—lunch out at local restaurants, day at the seashore, trips to the Sands in Bethlehem, Kutztown festival, museum visits, to name a few.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show; let me do it now. For I shall not pass this way again.”
What was your greatest love?
My daughter. She is my only child and was born when I was just about 40 years old. She lives just a few minutes away. Now that she has retired from her job, we go shopping, out to lunch, take trips back to Springfield and just spend time together. She joins me on many of the Country Meadows special trips. We are both having fun.
Do you have any vices?
I have always enjoyed going to the casino. I like playing the slots. When AC opened casinos, I took bus trips for the day. I also vacationed in Las Vegas. Now, I go to the Sands on a Country Meadows trip or with my daughter. I also like to bet on the horses. When I lived in Springfield, my friends and I would go to Delaware Park every week for lunch and horse racing during the summer season.
Do you have any regrets?
I regret that I can’t drive a car anymore. Ever since you could buy new cars again after WWII, I had many Chevrolets—a beautiful two-toned 1957 Chevy, some Oldsmobiles and my last car was a Buick. My driver’s license was good until I turned 100, but when I moved to Allentown at 98, I sold my car and stopped driving. I loved the freedom to jump into the car and go shopping or just for a ride. Now, I go on the Saturday morning country ride in the van, and my daughter drives me around too.