Towanda’s ‘Grandma’ bids farewell
Published: September 8, 2013
TOWANDA — Goodbye, “Grandma”!
Long-time Towanda resident Ruth Squires is moving away. After spending much of the last year with her daughter in Lebanon, Pa., she now has sold her home here to go there for good.
Most likely that’s sad news for many. Because Ruth is a sort of “grandma” to them. For years and years, she’s served others through her jobs and volunteer work, helping ... how many? We’ll never know.
And they love her for it. This summer, Ruth celebrated her 90th birthday with a party at the Towanda Gun Club. Close to 200 friends showed up. They had cakes, ice cream, speeches, relatives from around the country — the works.
Her party photo album shows friends, relatives, Ruth wearing a rose corsage, the buffet, pink decorations, even Rep. Tina Pickett giving her a House citation.
“And there were loads of balloons!” Ruth reports. The album’s cover — with her photo — shows a quotation: “Behind us are memories, beside us are friends, before us are dreams.”
“I still have a lot of friends here!” she declares. She’ll keep in touch.
Did we say 90th birthday? Yes, though you might not think so. Ruth is still Ruth, full of energy and smiles for everyone. One summer afternoon she sits in her Towanda living room, almost empty now. Boxes and bags set on one side, ready for the moving van and the yard sale. Green curtains still drape graciously at the windows, and party flowers decorate an entertainment center.
How did this popular lady become so popular? Just by being Ruth.
She was born in Johnson City, N.Y., to George “Dewey” and Nettie Archer Goodrich, and had two sisters and three brothers, Oliver, Joanna, George Jr., Agnes and William.
When Ruth was 3, the family moved to Wysox. She attended Wysox Elementary School and graduated from Towanda High in 1941. She earned a one-year diploma from the Lowell School of Business in Binghamton, in the meantime working at Atlantic Refining Co.
“That gave me a start,” she remembers.
She went on to work at the Eclipse plant in Elmira, N.Y., then at PennDOT in Towanda. After marrying, Ruth spent about seven years as a homemaker before going back into the work force, this time at Sylvania for the same supervisor she’d had at PennDOT, Charlotte White. A-ha! That was her niche. Ruth would be at Sylvania, later GTE/Sylvania, for 29 years.
But after she quit working, she went right back. She went to work for her daughter Julie at the Credit Bureau of Bradford, Sullivan and Tioga (New York) Counties.
“I couldn’t get away from a desk!” she insists.
She left that job when Julie sold the business. Then Julie moved away to take a government job.
“I had to fill that void,” Ruth says. She wanted some spending money, too. So she got a part-time position with Mental Health Associates, staying there until 1995, when her mother developed serious health problems. She finally retired for good, to be with her.
“They haven’t forgotten me at MHA,” Ruth says. After nearly 20 years, a doctor there has told Ruth they still mention her.
So then Ruth could focus more on her “second career” — volunteering.
“I just wanted to give back to the community, I guess,” she says. She liked meeting people. And God had blessed her with a good pension, she says, so she could afford to be retired.
So she began helping the American Cancer Society, delivering daffodils for Daffodil Days. She answered phones and worked at Bloodmobiles for the Red Cross. She served as North Towanda tax collector, and assessor and auditor. She helped the Sylvania Women’s Club and Sylvania Retirees and Towanda Business Women, and was very active in the North Towanda United Methodist Women, holding every office except treasurer. The UMW “was very dear to my heart,” Ruth says. “I have always enjoyed my church work.” She’s belonged to that church 64 years.
But her long, busy path also has been strewn with flowers. And candy. And balloons and baby clothes and jewelry. And probably some Teddy bears, too.
All that and everything else they sell in the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Gift Shop. Ruth volunteered at the shop nearly 40 years, from 1973 until 2011.
She started working just one night a week. “As time went on, I was close by ... would fill in for a lot of them.”
By the end, she’d logged almost 6,000 hours. That’s more than two years’ worth of eight-hour work days – without holidays or weekends. All done for free. Just to help.
“And I did some of the bookwork for the gift shop, and I enjoyed that,” Ruth says. “Right!”
She enjoyed “meeting the people,” she says. “And it’s not only serving the hospital but it’s serving the community. ...
“I just felt so dedicated to it.”
All this doesn’t include driving her brother Oliver to dialysis treatments. Or reading to children at church. Or filling her house with decorations and holding Christmas parties for many of her clubs; at one gathering she gave away 50 or more gifts, all things from her own house. Or the time she made a pie for her lawyer. Or, or, or ... those who know Ruth can fill in their own stories.
“Whatever you do or whatever you give,” she says, is given back to you threefold.
In the meantime, Ruth’s faced her own challenges. Now alone, she’s lost two daughters, Virginia and Roseanna. “I don’t know why I’m still living and I’m losing children,” she states. “God has kept me here for a reason.”
Ruth and Julie also had, and recovered from, cancer. “So we’re both cancer survivors,” Ruth says.
One day Julie called. “Mom, you know I’m going to be retiring,” she said. “Would you think of coming to live with me?”
It would be a big change. A big decision. But Ruth was losing friends here. “I didn’t want to live alone,” she adds.
So she said she would do it.
“I’m so pleased that I have children who want me with them,” she says. Julie built a new house in Lebanon, adding on a patio just for her mom, and Ruth’s son Paul lives near there. (She has another son, Richard, in Texas and a daughter, Mary Getz, in Dushore, plus 10 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and two great-greats.)
She decided to sell her home of 47 years. She’s taking some furniture and keepsakes to Lebanon and giving quite a few to relatives.
“I’m just so glad to see how happy they are to use my things!” she says. She also had a sale of some things, to benefit her church.
“It’s emotional,” she admits. You can’t live in a house that long “and not be a little emotional.”
But leaving her church is worse. “Church has always meant a lot to me,” Ruth explains. She believes “God plans our lives and I accept whatever He wills.” She’ll come back to visit there.
“It’s a new lifestyle for me,” she says. But the new house will be good. “I’m fixed up real, real comfortably.”
She’ll get into a new church in Lebanon, make new friends, go to a Bible study. The people are nice, she reports, and the area has a community center. She enjoys walking around the housing development. There’s a lot to look forward to.
“Most of all, just being with the children,” she says.
“I’m going to enjoy every day and I’m not going to worry about how long it’s going to be.”
And Towanda’s been good to Ruth, to this community “Grandma” who’s now saying goodbye.
“It’s been a wonderful life,” she says.
“I have totally enjoyed my home and my friends. ... I’m leaving with emotions but I’m leaving with many happy memories.”