Her Admirable Grandma Stayed Active Until The Very End

“I won’t climb any more pear trees,” Grams promised.

My grandmother was only in her sixties when Grandpa died. She continued to run their junkyard in the small Kansas town of Sabetha, sculpting her biceps with her newly acquired welding and cutting-torch skills, and sorting metals into neat piles. During the Depression and World War II, the a.m. Henry Salvage business had been a major employer that helped the town weather those troubled times. Grams, who had previously handled the bookkeeping, saw no reason to close the business and embraced some of the outdoor work that Grandpa had hired others to do.

She was much older when she ceased doing business, but she never quit working. I well remember the summer day that my husband Ray and I, along with our two young sons, drove the 90 miles to Grams' home and found her up on the roof nailing on shingles. She was then in her early eighties, measured five feet tall, and weighed her age. Ignoring her protests, Ray quickly took over the job for her. When she led the boys and me into the house, I noticed her shiny hardwood floors and realized they were newly refinished. "I did it myself," she said matter-of-factly. "Just stripped off the old varnish and brushed on the new. It wasn't that hard."

She had also painted her kitchen a soft mint-green. Hoping to be of belated assistance, I asked, "Grams, would you like Ray and me to move out your refrigerator and range and paint behind them?"

"Why, honey," she replied, "I already did that."

"How on earth did you move those heavy objects?"

"I just went out to the iron pile, got a steel pipe, hoisted up the appliances and rolled them out. When the paint was dry, I rolled them back."

Back in the living room, I noticed a baseball bat by the door. Grams explained, "Our neighborhood has been having trouble with burglars lately. If one comes here, I'll hit him with the bat." Any burglar who encountered Grams would wish he had taken up a different line of work.

Grams was brave, but never foolhardy. At 86, when she climbed a tall pear tree, she asked my great-aunt, aged 90-something, to act as spotter. Suddenly, Grams plummeted about fifteen feet, landing with a thump at Aunt May's feet. When Aunt May could not revive her, she presumed the worst and went into Grams' house to call the mortuary. She was talking to the funeral director when Grams — shaken but otherwise unhurt — walked in the back door.

When we were alerted to the accident, we drove to Sabetha and insisted on taking Grams to the doctor. He lectured her sternly, "I don't want you climbing any more trees."

"I won't climb any more pear trees," Grams promised. And until her productive life ended at almost 91 years of age, Ruth Moriarty Henry was true to her word.

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family 101 Stories about the Wacky, Lovable People in Our Lives © 2018 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cover image via  Ditty_about_summer I Shutterstock


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