Crothersville native returns to homeplace ahead of 101st birthday


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A two-story brick home on South County Road 1200E in Crothersville holds a special place in Ruth Gossman’s heart.

She lived there from when she was born in 1920 until 1938 when she headed off to Indiana University in Bloomington.

A few times over the years, she returned there for family reunions and other special occasions.

While she has lived with one of her sons, Jim Gossman, in Bloomington in recent years, Ruth was ready to return to her homeplace ahead of her birthday Oct. 25 when she will turn 101.

She wasn’t able to gather with all of her family for her 100th birthday in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she settled on a trip to Indianapolis with Jim at her other son Ed’s home.

On Sunday, Jim and Ed were joined by three of Ruth’s nieces and two of her nephews and their spouses at the Crothersville home for a mini-reunion and to enjoy birthday cake and drinks.

“This is just to get together because she wanted to see her house. She has been talking about that all summer,” Jim said. “Every time she sees a picture of it, she says, ‘Oh, that’s my house. That’s where I grew up.’”

Jim said the last time she had been there was about three years ago.

“Before that, it had been a long time,” he said. “We used to have big reunions every year. Those stopped about 20 years ago. I think we probably did it here once or twice, but we usually had a meeting out in a park somewhere.”

The house was built in 1905 by Ruth’s grandfather. Today, her nephew, Ken Gillaspy, lives there with his wife, Joyce, so it’s still in the family after all of these years.

Growing up, Ruth attended the nearby Copper Bottom School, which was named after a horse.

From 1938 to 1943, she was at IU working toward a home economics degree. She taught that subject at North Madison for a few years and then Columbus before marrying Leon Gossman in 1948.

Leon landed a job in Indianapolis after the war, so he and Ruth moved there. Ruth taught home economics at Decatur Township, where she spent most of her career.

“She took off when I was born and went back when I was a freshman in high school,” Ed said.

Jim said his mother growing up on a farm is what drove her to teach home economics. Her father earned a chemistry degree from IU and later was a chemist for the Army and also taught at Copper Bottom School, while her mother was involved in home economics groups and worked in the cafeteria at the school in Crothersville.

“There are a lot of teachers in the family,” said one of Ruth’s nieces, Carol King.

“She tried to teach all of us how to cook,” added another niece, Charlene Taylor.

“Oh, she taught me a lot of things — a lot of things about cooking, so when I was on my own, I had some knowledge,” Ed said. “Dad taught me a lot of things about fixing stuff up around the house, which I used.”

In the early 1980s, Ruth and Leon retired and moved to Brownstown. Jim said his parents then started going to Florida every winter until they were 89. They would come home for Christmas.

“That’s amazing because she drove one vehicle and he drove another one with the camper,” King said of her aunt and uncle’s yearly trips to Florida. “They were up there in age when they were doing that. I was impressed.”

In retirement, Ruth continued the hobbies of quilting, crocheting, knitting and cooking.

“She was in a quilting group in Brownstown that the ladies all got together and quilted,” Jim said. “She would put stuff in the county fair every year.”

As far as making it to age 100 last year, Ruth always told Charlene it was partly attributed to healthy eating. Ed said a distant relative lived to 105 and had lived by herself until her late 90s.

Ruth told her sons it was awesome turning 100 last year, and she was always talking about it.

“She said she can’t believe it sometimes,” Jim said, smiling.

Now that she’s preparing to turn 101, she continues to be an inspiration to her family.

“I would just say we are happy for every day we have, and we take one day at a time,” Jim said.

“I want to grow up to be just like Aunt Ruth,” King said, smiling. “I don’t have anything bad to say about her. She has made it to almost 101. She’s got two good sons. She’s like a role model.”

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