ELKTON — She sat on her throne and met her fans as each arrived in their vehicle and waved and wished her a happy birthday.
But it wasn’t just any birthday and certainly not just any birthday girl.
Ruth Deibert turned 100 Tuesday. Last Saturday friends and family helped her celebrate with a drive-through birthday party from the portico of Elkton United Methodist Church.
Every vehicle that arrived brought well wishes and cards; some even had signs, flowers or other gifts or sang “Happy Birthday.” Deibert received every one with a bright smile and a wave.
“I didn’t know what they were going to do,” she said. She only knew her family had something planned to celebrate her centennial. Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic there would have been a big party somewhere with everyone in one place at one time. There would be food and music and maybe even dancing.
“But I don’t dance,” Deibert said.
She grew up as Ruth McKeown in Elkton on a farm on Oldfield Point Road. One of her earliest memories was when she was about 3 years old. One of the youngest of seven children, Deibert remembered a scary time.
“I was sitting on the woodpile ... the cookstove was right there,” she said of her memory of the kitchen in the family home. Somehow she was suddenly on fire. She doesn’t recall how it happened. “My brother Mitchell saved me.”
Deibert also remembers attending various schools as she grew up.
“There was one on Howard Street first and then near the armory,” she said.
Deibert left school in 1938 before she would graduate to marry Foster L. Deibert Sr. and change her name from McKeown to Deibert. They would raise five children together in a house on Landing Lane and enjoy 46 years of marriage. Her advice to couples who want that kind of longevity is simple:
“Love each other and want to stay together.”
She doesn’t really have any advice on how to make it to a century of birthdays however.
“I never thought about it,” she said at first, but then added, “My father lived to be 98.”
Even at 100 she continues to live the way she has, with priorities and kindness.
“Treat people well and they’ll treat you well,” Deibert said. “And I never drank.”
“She walked a lot,” Cheryl McKeown added, indicating that she was always busy and active.
Family is most important to Deibert, as evidenced by the gathering of grandchildren and great grandchildren accompanying her at the church.
Among the many vehicles that drove by with greetings was a Singerly Fire Company truck.
“They stood her in front of the truck,” her nephew, Ed McKeown, said. One of the crew put a firefighter’s helmet on her head.
“She just smiled,” McKeown said. “She was so happy.”