Humor keeps her young at almost 101

Lisa Ingebrand,

Ruth Aanas of Elysian will celebrate her 101st birthday in November. The Elysian native grew up in Iowa, but returned to the local area with her husband in 1952. (Lisa Ingebrand photo)

She’s 100, but she’s surprisingly spry and is quick to welcome a guest at her front door with a big grin.

Ruth (Nichols) Aanas of Elysian has led a full life. She grew up during the Great Depression, worked on marine bases during World War II, eloped with her sweetheart (a Purple Heart recipient), worked hard, fished, laughed a lot, and raised a family.

“I don’t feel like I’m 100, but in not too long, I’ll be 101,” she laughed. “It just doesn’t seem possible.”

Ruth was born to Ernest and Hazelle Nichols a century ago in Elysian.

“I was born here in November of 1920, but I was raised in Waterloo, Iowa. My father was from there, so I guess they decided to move back,” she explained. Ruth attended school up until junior high. The Great Depression had a grip on the country, but she managed to land a job at a bakery.

“I got the job—there were very few jobs back then— during summer vacation and I didn’t want to go back to school, very few kids at that time graduated. So, I was allowed to quit school and keep working,” she explained. “I didn’t make much, but I helped my parents however I could.”

When Ruth’s brother enlisted in the Marines and was assigned to Camp Pendleton in California, Ruth’s parents decided to pack up and move west to be near their son. Ruth decided to tag along and soon found a job working for the government at the marine base.

“I worked there. They (the government) were trying to make synthetic rubber for tires because they were going through so many of them,” she explained. “Then, my brother went overseas and my folks moved back to Waterloo. But, I stayed in California and worked.”

Ruth began working at an airplane factory where she operated large machines and made struts for airplanes. “It wasn’t hard work, but you had to know what you were doing,” she explained. “I could run all the machines, including the big lathe and the drill press.”

But, not long after her parents left California, Ruth decided to follow them home to Iowa.

Through mutual friends, she met a handsome young Army veteran named Richard Aanas, who had lost both legs to an anti-tank shell while serving in World War II. He was dating someone else at the time, and Ruth was...

To see more on this story pick up the July 22, 2021 print edition of the LifeEnterprise.



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