FAIRBORN — Roughly two years ago, Ruby Nicholson was still cooking her own meals, mowing the yard on a tractor, and tending her beloved gardens, all at the age of 102. On Tuesday, she celebrated her 104th birthday with her family and some friends at The Summit at Park Hills.
“Ruby is very humble,” said Krista Harding, Summit Activities Director. “She didn’t want us to do anything special for her birthday. She wanted to be just like everyone else.”
Nicholson was born on May 27, 1910, in Yosemite, Ky. She began teaching in a one-room school house, but spent the majority of her 39-year teaching career in Bardstown, Ky.
“Fifth grade was the best age to teach, because they are far enough along they can do a lot for themselves but they’re not to old that they’re hard to handle,” Nicholson said.
Her favorite part of teaching was “seeing the youngsters catch on and being proud of what they learned, and seeing their faces light up.” Two of the subjects she taught were English and botany.
“Mother’s big passion is nature and what it can give the spirit. She really appreciates the outside world,” said Nicholson’s daughter, Jane Scott.
One of Nicholson’s favorite is gardening, from vegetables to a project with different varieties of daylilies. Her prized possessions were her 100 beloved rose bushes, most of which had different names.
“The red ones, the Chrysler Imperials, were my favorite,” she said.
Nicholson’s husband, Horace, passed away in 1963, and since then she lived alone in Kentucky until she moved to Yellow Springs in 1985 to be closer to her daughter, son-in-law Robert, and grandsons, Seth, now 33, and Grant, 30.
“She was a huge support to my family when she moved here,” said Scott, who moved to Fairborn in 1971 for a job at Wright State University. “She lived in her own home and did it all until about a year and a half ago.”
In January 2013, Nicholson moved into The Summit where she continues to teach the staff about all the plants and bugs in the courtyard, and brings interesting tidbits of information to each discussion.
“She is still teaching us all so much about nature,” said Harding. “The most important thing about Ruby is her inclusiveness of people. She makes sure everyone is included. And she’s very intelligent. She brings life to all of our activities.”
Nicholson’s mother died when she was nearly 90 and her grandmother was in her late 90s, but Scott does not believe any other family member had ever lived to be more than 100.
“If she could see well enough to read and could hear well, she would be content,” said Scott of her mother, who does her own exercises to work on her memory. She goes door-to-door and memorizes who lives in each room and what they have on their doors.