Donna Billings

Author Donna Billings

by Donna Billings, Masonic Village at Sewickley resident

“Hi. How did you get a seat at the bar, next to all these men?”

“We come early,” says she with her beautiful smile.

“Oh, how early is that?”

“4:00, every Friday. Come, join Sally and me.”

That was my first introduction to Ruth Devlin (shown above). Weeks after moving to Masonic Village, I finally ventured up to the Clubhouse Pub, hoping to meet someone my own age. Instead, I met this wonderful older woman who has become one of my dearest friends, even though she exceeds my age by at least 15 years.

Ruth loves her sports. If you have ever played ping pong with her, you know your chances of winning are slim to none. She stands, left hand holding onto the edge of the table, her right arm pinging that ball. The men at Masonic Village wear a badge of honor if they happen to win a game against her mighty right hand swing. Ping pong is not her only sport: she plays equally as well at cornhole and will talk to you about baseball, football, basketball, field hockey. A former physical education teacher, she keeps herself in shape by exercising in the wellness center and swimming three times a week and rarely misses the weekly stretching classes.

Besides sports, Ruth plays in the bell choir, sings in the choir, regularly writes beautiful poetry for the Village News and rarely misses any program or movie in the Assembly Room.

Ruth also learned to fly a Cessna 100 plane at the age of 50. When asked why she did that, her answer: “Just to say I could do it. Amelia Earhart was always my idol growing up. I took lessons for about a year and flew solo.” Ask Ruth to tell you about her solo flight.

I asked her for one of the wildest, craziest things she’s done. At age 80+, Ruth was at her beloved cabin in the wilds and decided to float the raft down the Loyalsock Creek – alone. Almost at her destination, she and a dead tree made contact, and Ruth was dodging rocks in the white water. To save herself, she did a perfect back flip out of the raft, over the dead tree and landed safely on the side of the creek. Needless to say, her husband was not pleased when she arrived back in camp.

Ruth raised six children and now has 15 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren, scattered across the U.S. During her last birthday, she spent the day Zooming with all 39 progenies, beginning with calls in Connecticut, Vermont, Colorado, North Dakota, Arizona, Texas, North and South Carolina, and Virginia.

Asked what keeps her young, she says, “A good attitude and gratitude.” She has experienced lots of losses (husband, mother, sister, brothers, her best friend Sally (Ruth is the last of her seven Masonic women friends). She also laments personal losses: her eyesight and ability to read. She can no longer identify her favorite birds by song due to loss of hearing. She no longer drives. One of her greatest losses is not being able to play the violin which she played for the Pittsburgh Philharmonic for 15 years before a stroke slowed her down. What I love about Ruth is that each time she experiences loss, she picks herself up by her bootstraps and keeps on moving. She is a true role model for how I want to be when I reach her age. Ruth has scores of friends at MVS, and I’m very proud to be one of them.