Ruth Rodgers

Ruth Rodgers, the first baby born in 1920 in Wright County, celebrated her 100th birthday New Year’s Day.

Ruth Rodgers has done a lot of fascinating things throughout her life.

She was recognized as the first New Year's baby born in Wright County in 1920.

She has been a teacher throughout Missouri and in poverty stricken West Virginia.

She was a preacher at the House of Holiness Church in Fordland, as well as missionary in Jamaica.

And now she's a centenarian.

Rodgers turned 100 on Jan. 1, a milestone that has been celebrated by her church, the Rogersville Area Senior Center and her friends. And Rodgers has loved every minute of it.

Not celebrating is her husband. Rodgers doesn't have one — never has.

"It's unusual for someone to reach 100 and not have found a man yet," she said with a coy smile.

But Rodgers says that she has been in love 500 times, with the children she taught over her 36-year career.

What is Rodgers’ secret to a good, long life?

"The secret of it all is that I met Jesus at an early age," she said.

And, well, genetics may play a part, as Rodgers’ father lived to age 103. "I inherited it," she said during a free moment at one of her birthday parties, held Thursday at the Rogersville Area Senior Center. "I was born to a wonderful family," she said.

It was her experience as a missionary that taught Rodgers how lucky she is.

"I saw real poverty there," she said. "I thought I was poor! But we had three meals a day and a good place to live."

The people she served in Jamaica had things a good deal worse than what Rodgers had experienced as a child in Cedar Gap.

"I saw people that didn’t know where or when they were going to eat," she said.

She recalled seeing one grandmother who was the sole caretaker for 16 children. The woman had a single loaf of bread that she had to stretch to feed all of them — and that was all she had. “She took that loaf of bread and tore off a piece for this one, that one, the other one. It was all they had,” Rodgers recalled.

When asked if she had any advice for achieving health and alertness into the triple digits, Rodgers joked that she never married. But then came the real goods: "I would like to say obey your parents," she said. "It would be wonderful, if you were lucky enough to have parents as good as mine."

Mitchell and Alice Rodgers have been gone a long time … but Ruth Rodgers is going strong, with one more party planned this Saturday.

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