Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures

Yesterday, Tuesday, October 4, my Aunt Ruthie celebrated her 98th birthday. Born in 1918, she is a towering figure in my life and, and along with Mother and Grandma Longenecker, my strongest mentor. And she has been mother/teacher to many.

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See the determination in that little girl’s face!

Her mother, my grandma Fannie Longenecker, replying to my sister Janice’s questions for a sociology-class interview assignment, mentioned that “Ruthie was industrious, a busy-body, a tomboy who would take risks.”


Education

The blurb in her Elizabethtown High School yearbook photo acknowledged her brilliant mind. (She skipped two elementary grades.) The description below also foretold her teaching career and hinted at the math skills she used in her long career as tax collector for West Donegal (PA) Township. She was so young when she began college at age 16, she required a chaperone.

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Ruthie attended business school near Elizabethtown and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She earned a master’s degree in education from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Teaching Career

Country children in rural Lancaster County usually did not attend kindergarten. Aunt Ruthie created kindergarten for me as a 5-year-old at Cherry Hill School, close to Milton Grove, PA. I remember bouncing up and down over hills and dales riding in the back seat of her brown Hudson on the way to Cherry Hill. Two or three days a week I learned the alphabet and numbers sitting along side first graders. In the one-room classroom with eight grades, I loved singing: “Good morning merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon? You scared away the little stars and shined away the moon.”

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Hundreds of students remember Miss Longenecker at the age pictured below at Rheems Elementary School where she taught sixth grade and served as principal. Earlier in her career there, the school board (probably all male) refused to acknowledge her true function as principal and condescendingly referred to her as “head teacher.”

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It galls me even now to disclose this awful truth, and so I ask:

What title goes to the person (man or woman) who approves the curriculum, supervises textbook orders and presides over faculty meetings, responding to parental complains. It’s the PRINCIPAL I tell you!

 


Host to Refugees and Immigrants

This 1979 photo below shows Grandma Longenecker, Aunt Ruthie and Phuong Le, a refugee from Vietnam, a young girl they welcomed into their home as a daughter. Phuong was the first among dozens who sought shelter from war-torn countries. She made the most of Aunt Ruthie’s mentoring from 1976-1982, later succeeding in a career as a computer programmer and raising a fine family.

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Lutheran Social Services acknowledged Ruthie’s magnanimous contribution to refugees and immigrants with The Salt of the Earth Award, a plaque which recognized “her exceptional commitment and warmhearted compassion in welcoming the stranger. ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’ Matthew 5:13” (script from plaque)

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Love of Family

“You are always welcome here,” were Aunt Ruthie’s words after my sisters and I married and moved away from home. She labored in the kitchen when her nieces from Florida and Michigan nested in her home during vacations.

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In a small way, we returned the favor and relished her enjoying the citrus we bought from our orange and grapefruit trees in Florida.

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Appreciation for Music

A music lover, Ruthie played the piano vigorously. If the apron is any indication, she is relaxing here after over-seeing meal making, her grand-niece Crista in the background.

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Into her early 90s, she played dinner music for the elderly ( ! ) at Rheems Nursing Home. “They don’t have anybody doing much for them,” she said.

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Playing the dulcimer – wholeheartedly!

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Animal Friends

Through the years, her Schnauzers, Fritzie I, II, III, and IV have been her ever-present companions, protecting her by day and warming her feet at night in bed.

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The last Fritzie, # IV, has found a dog’s paradise, adopted by teen-age Jason and his family.

Love for Learning

Books, magazines, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era have kept her curious mind informed.

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During most of her stay at Landis Homes, she has whizzed through Word Finds puzzle books.

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Hands in the Soil

A life-long gardener, Aunt Ruthie has always had her hands in rich Pennsylvania soil. She was my hoeing companion in the 4 1/2 -acre tomato “patch” in Bainbridge, PA in the 1950s.

Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field
Aunt Ruthie with scarf and I hoeing in tomato field

At home, she kept a large garden, the envy of passersby on old route # 230 that borders her property.

All summer long until Aunt Ruthie was almost 90, she mowed nearly an acre of grass on her land near Rheems, preferring outdoor work to household duties.

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For decades, she kept a strawberry patch and a vegetable garden, bordered by flowers. Now the flowers come to her.

Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.
Niece Jean brings knockout roses for Aunt Ruthie now living at Landis Homes.

 


She has had a goodly heritage

The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938 Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with cape dress and white covering strings
The Martin-Horst-Longenecker Freindschaft, circa 1938
Both in back row: My dad Ray Longenecker with zippered sweater and Aunt Ruthie on right with V-necked cape dress and white covering strings

 

Gutes Leben, her high school yearbook blurb concluded.

Yes, Aunt Ruthie, has enjoyed a good life.

 

Happy Birthday, Aunt Ruthie!

Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago
Ruthie after enjoying a birthday lunch at Oregon Dairy near Lititz, PA a few years ago

 

 

Coming next: Heart on Fire, Guess Who’s Voted for President!

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Beauty in Jars: 2 Vignettes

Beauty in Jars I

Yesterday morning, Mom assessing my cosmetics on her bathroom vanity: “What are you doing with all that stuff?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. “I wouldn’t know what to do with it all,” see adds as she eyes my jars of moisturizer, foundation, concealer, makeup remover.

MomMeBeautyblog  Mom continues, “I’m happy with the face God gave me. If He had wanted it different, He would have made me different.” This from the now elderly woman whose husband said to her when they were dating, “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”

 God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.      Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Beauty in Jars II

Mother has a smooth complexion for her age—genes or good eating, maybe a combination of both.  She is definitely a foodie, always has been. After eating a breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios, juice, a banana and coffee, she asks, “Do we need a piece of chocolate now?” as she opens the box of confections from NaNa’s Homemade Sweet Treats in E-Town.

Our last chore together this PA visit is to wash the jars for canning in her basement cellar—Except for a few vintage jars, she’s giving most of them away because as she nears 95, she’s says, “I’m done with canning.” The jars filled with tomato juice, beets, peaches, apricots, pickled cantaloupe, strawberry jam, and pickles were simply beautiful as they lined her wooden shelves each season. There were even green beans before she had a freezer. Every year, her mother-in-law Fannie helped her chop an array of fresh vegetables for piccalilli, or what the PA Dutch call chow-chow. Now she’s donating most of the jars to Goodwill, but keeping a few vintage Ball and Mason Jars. A few have metal clasps that hug the glass lids.

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            Vintage Canning Jars                       Mom saying goodbye to canning

 All the cliches come to mind here: Beauty is where you find it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You’re beautiful inside and out.

I say, “Beauty is ageless.”

What memories of canning, long ago or recent, do you have? Share your story!

Mom’s Kitchen: Pig Stomach and Easter Eggs

My Mother loved her kitchen with a spiritual passion and was happiest at the altar of her stove, cooking or baking. We’d hear her off-key voice singing “Heavenly Sunlight” or “Keep on the Sunny Side” as she fixed breakfast while we dressed and braided our hair for school.

Her mother, Sadie Landis Metzler, died when she was nine, so Ruth, the oldest daughter of six, was the mini-mom milking cows and peeling potatoes before she went to school. Later, she was hired out to help another farm wife, who taught her to cook, instilling a love for fresh or home-canned ingredients with PA Dutch recipes.

Mom and Pig’s Stomach

These days when I fly home from Florida, we make a feast of her famous homemade soups (vegetable & chicken corn) and other dishes, including pig stomach. It sounds horrible, like goose liver or pickled pig’s feet, but it’s considered a delicacy at her house.

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There are other names for this dish: hog maw, Dutch goose—but pig stomach is the name we grew up with. Basically, a nicely rinsed stomach from a pig is stuffed with a pound of sausage, 8 large diced potatoes, some onion, and sprigs of parsley cut up in tiny pieces, then all ingredients oven-roasted.

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Mom’s stand-by side dish is peas & carrots for color, celery in season, and something fruity for dessert like her gelatin fruit salad, a recipe passed around among the relatives.

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Her Salmon Casserole is also a favorite at her table. There are variations of this recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook by Mary Emma Showalter. Scottdale, PA: The Mennonite Community Association, 1972 (16th printing). My Mom’s own recipe is quick and hearty.

 

2010_Mother Longenecker_Baking Salmon Loaf_6x4_300Salmon Casserole: Ingredients:

1 can red salmon

1 pack or more of saltine crackers, crumbled

butter, 3 – 4 pats

2 cups milk

Snipple up (break into small pieces) salmon from the can. Place a layer of crushed cracker crumbs on the bottom of a greased 2-3 quart casserole. Alternate layers of salmon with crumbled crackers, adding a little salt and pepper as you go. Add milk. “Top off with a few hunks of butter,” she says.

Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.

 

Chocolate-covered  Eggs: Peanut Butter and Coconut, a treat every Easter in the 50s

Peanut Butter Eggs

1 lb. butter + 2 lbs. peanut butter  + 3 lbs. 10x sugar  Mix ingredients together and form into egg shapes, about 1 1/2 inches diameter.

Coconut Cream Eggs

1/4 lb. butter + 8 oz. cream cheese + 2 lbs.10x sugar + coconut to taste (8 oz. bag) Follow instructions above.

Coating: l lb. of semi-sweet chocolate melted. Mother would melt a pound of semi-sweet chocolate by sinking a cup of chocolate into a pan of boiling water; you may want to use something more up-to-date like a double boiler for the melting process. As the chocolate melted, she shredded in some paraffin for a glossy finish to the coating.

Mom made the candies by resting each egg on a fork, dipping it into the chocolate, and then using a knife to scrape the drippy chocolate off the bottom of the egg. Pure heaven!

What family favorites do you associate with a particular holiday? How have you adapted the recipes to your own table?

© Marian Beaman

Grandma’s Kitchen: Recipes & More

 

Grandma’s Kitchen: Recipes and More

Grandma Longenecker’s kitchen was many yards long with the necessities for cooking at one end where an old cook-stove squatted and the comforts of dining on an old oak table at the other end, bounded by three bay windows.

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One of my earliest memories is seeing flames leaping out of Grandma’s old cook-stove as she used her metal tool to lift the burner, just as you see in the drawing.

Everything Grandma made was from scratch. From sauerkraut to pot pie—even cakes of lye soap, “Homemade is best,” she’d say.

                             GmaSauerkrautArticle Grandma & Sauerkraut Crock

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I have vivid memories of helping Grandma make potpie. We rolled out the dough and cut it into squares. Then, standing on a chair beside her at the stove, I would spot a hole in the chicken broth seething in the kettle and try to drop in a square of dough without singeing my fingers. It was warm and steamy and more fun than mud-pies, plus the results were edible. Often served with her yummy coleslaw, tart with vinegar, and made with cabbage from her vegetable garden.

Table set for Christmas Dinner 2004:

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What soul food do you connect with your Grandma, other relative?

Up next: Mom’s Kitchen, Aunt Ruthie’s Kitchen

© Marian Beaman