Contributed by Lisa Bragan
Photos by Mary Beth Martel
On Jan. 3, friends and family from as far away as California and Rhode Island gathered at the Marathon Garden Club to celebrate the 100th birthday of Ruth Bragan.
Ruth, along with her late husband Charles, retired to the Marathon area in 1971 and purchased some property where they built their home where she still resides today. Together, they raised four children – Phyllis, Charles, David and Robert. She has 14 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and four great, great grandchildren.
Memories of Ruth’s life were shared at the party through personal accounts and emails received from distant relatives who were unable to attend. Ruth’s sister-in-law, Fran Richman, recalled Ruth’s stories of her first year as a housewife when she spent $5 each week for groceries while still managing to make the simplest dinners look and taste delicious with the homemade rolls for which she is still famous today. Richman also shared memories of visiting Ruth and Charles in Marathon where she found them working as a team to help the Marathon Garden Club plant trees around town and prepare for spectacular plant sales. She also shared stories about Ruth’s years of teaching in New York State from where she eventually retired. Other friends and family members shared additional memories of Grandma’s dinner rolls and the recipe that has now been passed down through generations. They spoke of her determination and strong will to overcome obstacles and struggles in recovering her independence after she fell and broke her hip last Spring. They all confessed that she is truly an inspiration and a great rold model to others.
In turn, Ruth shared her lifetime of memories including time spent with her family’s farm work horse, Prince and her own horse, Lena, who drew their horse and buggy to the trolley. She reminisced about her first job as a second grade teacher during the Great Depression in which she not only taught classes but coached the girls’ basketball team.
In past years, Ruth has been asked many times how it feels to be whatever age she was for that particular year and her response has always been: “It’s better than the alternative.”
Ruth has always encouraged staying active physically and mentally, setting examples as she enjoyed waking and kayaking well into her 90s. She has been active in the Marathon Garden Club, Marathon Power Squadron, Fishermen’s Hospital Auxiliary and Kirk of the Keys.
“I miss Charles very much, but all in all, life has been good,” Ruth told her family and friends.
Marathon Mayor Mike Cinque and City Manager Clyde Burnett were also on hand during the celebration to honor Ruth with a certificate of recognition for her century of life.
Ruth was surprised and touched by all the attention she received during her birthday celebration, all the while still trying to downplay the recognition of reaching such a great milestone. She is thankful to all who attended or sent along birthday wishes. With the donations made by friends and family in lieu of gifts, members of the Marathon Garden Club will be coordinating the planting of trees and the picnic gardens along the Marathon Airport in honor of Ruth, who has been an active member of the organization since her arrival in 1971.