SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - A visit to Ruth Parman's house in Spokane Valley is a trip into her family's past, a well-document past.
In one of the guest bedrooms of her spacious and well-maintained house in her gated community, Ruth has a bed that is 162-years-old. It was also the very same bed her grandmother was born on.
But it's not just 162-year-old beds that offer a glimpse into her family's past. Ruth's walls and shelves are adorned with family photos, some more recent than others. Ruth has a large photo of her great-grandfather who was killed 1864 during the Battle of Cold Harbor during the Civil War in her living room. A man she never met, but one she still honors.
No matter the photo, Ruth can tell you all about it in great detail.
Genealogy is just one of Ruth's passions. She has diligently preserved her family's history during her lifetime - a lifetime that turned 100-years-old on Friday.
On November 8, 1919, Ruth Goodspeed was born on in a small farming town in Maryville, Missouri. She's seen this country through its ups and downs. During the Great Depression, Ruth and her family had to lease their family farm in Missouri in order to save it. They moved to Portland, Oregon for a couple of years. The family farm was lost years later to the Federal land bank in 1936.
Ruth spent the majority of her life as a teacher, molding young minds. She married Loren Parman in 1945 and stayed married to him for 58 years until he passed away in 2003. Widowed at the age of 83, Ruth has kept busy.
Her children graduated from Whitworth University and now live successful lives all over the country while Ruth stays busy in her Spokane Valley home (which sits on land that used to be a dairy farm. Ruth, of course, knew the history of the land her home now sits on).
She is never alone, however.
Ruth is surrounded by the unconditional support of her friends and neighbors, her church, and her philanthropic work with the P.E.O. Sisterhood, which helps provide education opportunities to young women.
While talking with Ruth on the day before she hit the big 100, I, of course, asked the obligatory "What's the key to a long life?" question and, still sharp as a tack, she immediately had an answer.
"I really feel that faith in God is most important. If you didn't have that for your future, it would be desolate," Ruth said before pausing and adding, "And if you didn't have friends and family to be supportive, that too would be very difficult at this stage."
Faith. Family. Friends. The three F's. However, you could also add fitness to that list for longevity.
Ruth wakes up every day at around 5:00 am, she drinks a protein shake or something called "Postum" (I had never heard of this, and if you're like me, it's a wheat grain and molasses powder you mix with hot water. Ruth, of course, offered me some, but I politely declined), and then begins her activities. Those activities could include genealogy, gardening, swimming or going on 1/2 mile - 1 mile walks in the spring and summer. She even shovels her own driveway in the winter. That is until her thoughtful neighbors look out of their windows and selflessly come to finish the job for her.
She's still very much independent.
While talking with Ruth, her neighbors, Norene and Sherri, were quick to tell me the tale of how the gate locked to their gated community one night and rather than call a neighbor for help, Ruth simply crawled under the fence to get to her home.
"Of course, she was only 98 when she did that," Sherri quipped.
"I just crawled under there. Anybody can do that," Ruth said.
Not just anybody, Ruth.
It's hard to sum up 100 years of life, love, work, faith and service in just a simple story here, but I hope I've been able to capture and preserve a little bit of the life of a woman who has spent the last century preserving so much of her own history.
"I just go one day at a time and the days are never long enough," Ruth joked.
Ruth will spend her 100th birthday surrounded by friends, family and neighbors as they celebrate a life well-lived and no doubt Ruth will be telling tales to a captive audience.
After our visit on Thursday, the guestbook that sits by her front door - next to the walls decorated by the photographic branches of her family tree - now has two new signatures as she insisted Kyle, my photographer, and I sign. And I'm sure if you ever find yourself in Ruth's home, she'll offer you a cup of Postum and tell you all about it and much more.
Happy 100th birthday, Ruth. Here's to many more!