Last weekend, friends and family of Ruth Spalding celebrated her 100th birthday — a milestone acknowledged by the city of Shawnee declaring it “Ruth Spalding Day.”
To celebrate her 100th birthday, Spalding had a party at Sharon Lane Health Services and spent the day surrounded by more than a hundred friends and family, including two great-great-grandchildren.
“Boy, what a birthday party,” Spalding said. “It was beautiful. So big. I just enjoyed it all.”
Shawnee Mayor Distler proclaimed her birthday, July 15, 2019, to be Ruth Spalding Day.
“It’s more symbolic, just celebrating her and the fact that she’s lived a hundred years,” Distler said. “She’s the lady of the century right now in Shawnee. She was so precious. You wouldn’t have guessed her a day over 70. I think it’s awesome that someone has been able to be a firsthand witness of a century worth of history.”
Spalding’s daughter Janice Pound said having her mother honored by the city of Shawnee was a special time as well.
“I think that’s amazing,” Pound said. “It was really special to have the mayor come and do that.”
The past three years she has lived in Shawnee, but Spalding lived in many places before that.
Over the past century, she has enjoyed her “beautiful, beautiful family” and several hobbies, including bowling, swimming, and playing Scrabble and card games. She always cooked for all the family and anyone who dropped by for dinner.
She spent much of her career as her waitress. She and her husband ran the snack bar at Sun ‘n’ Surf Swim Club in Shawnee before it closed.
But she couldn’t pick just one story to tell in her century-long life.
“I guess it’s been wonderful ‘cause I’m still here, able to get up,” she joked.
Born on July 15, 1919, in Hepler, Kansas, she was the daughter of Velma Cook Typer and Robert Earl Typer and the third sibling of a family of six children.
Her mother was a telephone operator for several years, and the family lived in the back of the building where she worked.
“I remember peeking through the slats to watch her work,” she said.
Spalding recalls splendid Halloween parties back when she started grade school in Savonburg, Kansas. She remembers playing pranks with the other children, like one time when “one of the meanest things we did was upset every outdoor toilet we could find.”
“A man that owned the grocery store was in an outhouse that got turned over,” she said. “He didn’t like kids and didn’t want them in his store, so we didn’t feel too bad after we found out that he was in the outhouse.”
After high school, Spalding wanted to start nursing school but they didn’t have enough openings, so she found work as a waitress in Chanute, Kansas. There she met and married a man named Harry Taylor. They lived in Las Vegas for a time and moved around a lot, later adopting a deaf baby and naming her Betty Jeanne. A few years later, Spalding and Taylor divorced, and she moved to Kansas City and sent her daughter to Olathe Deaf School.
While working as a waitress at the Trail House on the Country Club Plaza, she met Hubert Spalding, who had three children of his own. They got married in 1955 and together had two other children. They raised their six children in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, where she has spent most of her life.
After her husband retired in 1976 from a 30-year career at General Motors, their family spent time traveling to Oklahoma, Texas and Canada. They have enjoyed fishing, bowling and grandchildren together until Hubert died in 2006. Together, they had 14 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.