COVID memorials: 100-year-old great-grandmother ‘wore her heart on her sleeve’

Ruth Parks meets virtually with her granddaugher Kelly Perry when nursing homes were no longer allowed to have visitors. Parks turned 100 last March but died of COVID-19 in November. SUBMITTED
Ruth Parks meets virtually with her granddaugher Kelly Perry when nursing homes were no longer allowed to have visitors. Parks turned 100 last March but died of COVID-19 in November. SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Credit: SUBMITTED

Had Ruth Parks’ birthday been a couple of weeks earlier, she might have turned 100 surrounded by family.

Instead, an Ohio Department of Health order limited access to nursing homes the week before her March 19 birthday last year.

“She turned 100 and I celebrated at the window of nursing home,” said Parks’ granddaughter, Kelly Perry.

The Dayton Daily News and Springfield News-Sun are remembering people from the region we lost and gives voice to those who loved them.

ExploreCOVID memorials: Remembering lives lost to COVID-19

The family sent her gifts, and Kelly selected one of her gifts because of special memories shared with her grandmother.

“Schuler’s doughnuts were one of her favorite things — glazed and wheat,” she said. “When I was a child, before church we would always go to Schuler’s and get doughnuts. They would be warm straight out of the bakery.”

Her grandmother was “always smiling,” Kelly said. “She just was such a sweet lady.”

Kelly visited her grandmother weekly until the pandemic cut off physical access.

At 100, Ruth didn’t quite understand Zoom calls, but “she was even smiling there,” said Kelly of Springfield.

During her life, Ruth worked at Ontario, a discount department store chain that went out of business in the 1980s. She also cared for other people as a health aid, Kelly said.

“She was just very a giving person, she wore her heart on her sleeve,” she said.

Only months later was the family allowed to be with Ruth, on Nov. 10, the day she died.

“We put on the proper PPE,” Kelly said. “We were able to go in to see her and say our goodbyes. It was very emotional.”

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Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Dexter. Together they had three children and she lived long enough to have great-great grandchildren.

Her grandmother taught her to be a good person and care about others. But many people have not cared enough about others during the past year, Kelly said.

“That’s what’s heartbreaking about this pandemic,” she said. “I just see so much selfishness with not wanting to follow (health) orders and the guidelines of the state. And losing my grandmother, who was my role model through my entire life, is very heart-wrenching.”

Kelly just got her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“It was bittersweet,” she said. “I just wish my grandmother would have been alive to receive it.”

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