Parade brightens longtime Springfield resident’s 100th birthday

Ruth Bayley didn’t get to enjoy a 100th birthday party on Friday, May 1 the way she may have liked. Being an assisted living resident in this time of social distancing, she got the next best thing – a birthday parade.

Adorned in a sash reading “100 and fabulous,” Bayley sat under the balloon-decorated front entrance to Hearth & Home on Harding as an estimated 40 vehicles decked out in decorations and signs passed with passengers waving, cheering and wishing the Springfield native a great birthday.

“It was nice,” Bayley said, pleased by the surprise.

Bayley’s daughter Marti O’Connor of Springfield originally planned a grand birthday party at the Springfield Country Club, a reservation she made a year ago, inviting 150 guests from all over the country for what would’ve also been a family reunion as well.

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Then the COVID-10 pandemic hit, canceling the plan.

“Mom was disappointed, but there are a lot of people here,” O’Connor said before the parade. “People love to come and talk with mother. She’s done a lot for the community.”

Bayley, a 1942 Wittenberg University (then Wittenberg College) graduate, stayed in Springfield and worked for Dick Kuss at Bonded Oil and Security Bank among her jobs. She was married to Bob Bayley, another Wittenberg alum who was a lawyer, investor and state representative, for 44 years.

She was also active in local arts as a painter and author, having written seven books about her life during the depression and World War II and short stories, writing up into her 90s.

As an alternative to the birthday party, a group of friends suggested a parade so people could see her and wish her well while social distancing. Several met Friday afternoon in the Snowhill Elementary parking lot to form a parade route down Harding Road to Hearth & Home.

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O’Connor’s car had a sign wishing happy birthday from Bayley’s 35 grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

When asked the secret to reaching 100, Bayley quickly replied “No soft drinks! I don’t know why they make soft drinks.” O’Connor added she also stayed away from beef and butter.

Exercise, both physical and mental, contributed to her longevity. As a youngster, Bayley and her friend Mary Louise Patterson loved roller skating and walking back and forth up the hill on Plum Street in Springfield.

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O’Connor laughed and said Bayley’s mother wasn’t a fan of the skating because it could expose her bloomers and that wasn’t very ladylike. Bayley shared that Patterson is also still going strong at 99 in Portland, Ore.

Bayley said she preferred to stay in Springfield because she loves Wittenberg and her teachers. She and Bob were active with the school for years.

Pre-pandemic, Bayley received several visitors who like to play cribbage, which she almost always wins, and chess with O’Connor, who receives a nightly call from her at 7. Maybe the toughest part of the pandemic restrictions for Bayley is no live sports.

“Go Cowboys,” said Bayley, also a Cincinnati Reds fan.

The Hearth & Home staff said Bayley is quite spry and seems 50 years younger than she is. But for the remainder of her milestone day, she just wanted a little time to herself.

“Just rest,” she said.

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