‘Hang in there, young lady’

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At 110, Carmel woman likely oldest in state

By Pete Smith

After celebrating her 110th birthday on Sept. 21, it’s likely that long-time Carmel resident Ruth Reeves is the oldest person in Indiana.

Reeve was born in the tiny town of Denton, Neb., in 1903, the fourth of Wilbur and Ida Reeve’s five children.

Those were lean times out on the plains, and after a failed homesteading attempt, her father supported the family by delivering milk, running the town’s telephone office, working as a barber and acting as the local postmaster.

Ruth often rode to school in a horse-drawn cart, but she had fond memories of being allowed to ride in the first car that arrived in Denton, her daughter, Ila Badger, said.

She married a month shy of her 18th birthday and had two daughters before she was widowed at age 32 in the height of the Great Depression. At the time of her husband Pete Scott’s death she was earning $8 per week.

She eventually remarried in 1937, moved her family to Iowa and gave birth to her third daughter, Ila (Reeve) Badger.

Her second husband, Frank Reeve, moved the family to Indiana after obtaining a job in South Bend with Eli Lilly. After Ila Badger and her husband, Jack Badger, relocated to Carmel in 1968, Ruth and Frank Reeve followed them two years later.

Unfortunately, Ruth was widowed a second time in 1971.

Through the good times and the hard, Reeve credited her faith as being her foundation.

“She was a quiet servant of God,” Ila Badger said of her mother, a lifelong Methodist and member of Carmel United Methodist church.

Reeve never stopped working and even wrote and maintained her own checking account until she was 102. She also enjoyed playing bridge and dedicating her time to volunteer work.

“She was a great cook,” Badger said. “She made the best chicken and noodles you ever tasted.”

But the long years of serving other people took a quiet toll. When asked what the greatest invention of her lifetime was, she has consistently deemed the washing machine to be the winner.

She credits walking, faith and healthy eating for her longevity. Reeve has lived the past 23 years at ManorCare Assisted Living of Summer Trace, but she could be seen walking to Meijer for groceries past the age of 100.

Good genetics likely play a part as well. Reeve’s grandmother lived into her 80s, her mother lived to be 93 and her two oldest daughters, Phyllis and Janet, are 91 and 80 years old respectively.

Now at 110, Reeve is mostly deaf and can see very little due to macular degeneration. But her mind is still there and she said that she feels no pain.

During her birthday party, other Summer Trace residents were overheard congratulating her and telling her to, “hang in there young lady.”

When her daughter told her that she was now 110 years old, Reeve replied, “Oh, I don’t think so.”


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