Mrs Ruth Osborn came into this world in dramatic fashion 100 years ago, and she is still going strong.
Sitting in her elegant room at Resthaven Malvern, Ruth says, ‘I was born in Riverton Nursing Home at 3am on 10 August, 1921, on the coldest night of the year.’
‘Dad had to drive for six miles in a horse and buggy in sleet and snow, while my mum held her big pregnant belly through all the bouncing. She only just got there!’
Ruth grew up in the small town of Riverton, ‘30 miles north of Gawler, and 30 miles down from Clare,’ where her father was the local Blacksmith. ‘The town was only one house, a church, and a church hall. The schoolhouse was two miles away, and there was one teacher and 17 kids, set along seven long desks, from grades 1-7.’
Ruth was number six of eight children, and an ‘average student’. She finished her schooling aged 16, then went to work as a nursemaid for three small children on another farm. She says, ‘When the war broke out, I saw in the paper that they were desperate for nurses at the infectious diseases hospital up the road. I thought, “I could do that”. So, they trained me in infectious disease.’
‘I remember one night, the power went out, and we lost all the lights and the respirators. They brought prisoners from Yatala over to work the respirators with foot pedals. They saved a lot of lives that night.’
Ruth met her late husband, Eugene, at the wedding of a friend: ‘Eugene was in the Navy, stationed on the Australia, and a nurse friend of mine was marrying a sailor from his ship.’
‘Somebody gave me a glass of sherry, and I didn’t drink in those days. And someone put a cigarette in my other hand, and I also didn’t smoke. I didn’t really know what to do with them, then Eugene came and took them out of my hands and said, “I don’t think you need those”! We just sort of clicked.’
The couple were married when Ruth was 21, and they moved to Sydney, starting out in a basement apartment in Kings Cross. Thanks to an ex-serviceman’s grant, they were able to buy an old house in Western Sydney, for the princely sum of 600 pounds.
The couple had their first two children during this time.
Ruth says, ‘Every room in that old house was full of white ants. Every weekend for three years, we worked on that house, removing them all. We sold it for 3,000 pounds.’
They moved back to Adelaide for work, using the money they had made renovating their Sydney home to buy a block of land in Mitcham Park (now Daw Park), and building a house together. Here they had their third child.
Sadly, in 1977, Eugene died suddenly of a heart attack. Ruth says, ‘He went off playing tennis, and never came home. The doctors said that he just dropped in the middle of taking a serve.’
Ruth found solace in painting, and bowls, joining the Clarence Gardens Bowls Club. A talented bowler, she was picked for the Australian national bowls team in 1989, playing against New Zealand.
Ruth moved into Resthaven Malvern five and a half years ago – in a roundabout sort of way: ‘I was in hospital and my family had to find me a bed at a nursing home in a rush. So, I started at another one, but it was just awful. I won’t tell you the name!’
‘My daughter called Resthaven and said, “Do you have any vacancies?” And they said, “Just one, at Resthaven Malvern.” And she said, “Oh, that’s just around the corner from me!” It all worked out so well.’
‘I got here, and they had my bed all set up in this nice room right away.’
Sadly, Ruth has outlived her two sons, one of whom died of the same heart condition that killed her husband. However, she is very close with her daughter, and, from her three children, now has five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Unable to hold a large birthday party due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ruth instead enjoyed a small family gathering at her daughter’s home in Malvern, where guests enjoyed crayfish, prawns, and champagne, at Ruth’s request.
Ruth is very happy living at Resthaven Malvern, saying, ‘I’ll be six years here at Resthaven Malvern just before Christmas, and I can’t fault it. I’m very lucky to be here.’
‘It’s really good, I’d recommend it to anyone.’
She has no great secret for longevity, saying, ‘My life’s been quite normal.’
As for words of advice, she says, ‘Just be true to yourself. And be kind.’
Many happy returns, Ruth!