NORTH OGDEN — After more than 100 years on the planet, Ruth Pledger knows a thing or two.
She turned 104 on Thursday and thinks outlook figures big in that sort of longevity. Exercise and healthy eating are important, but having a good attitude can also add to your life.
“You can find the beauty in everything,” she said. Yes, there’s pain, illness and other bad stuff in life, but there’s plenty of good, and keeping an eye on that keeps you kicking.
Pledger is one of a select group to make it into triple digits. “Not too many people get to be that old,” Pledger said.
And to mark her 104th birthday, though a couple of days late, family gathered Saturday for a party at Quail Meadow, the North Ogden assisted-living facility where she lives. Granddaughter Nicole Greenwood envisioned it as a way to celebrate all her grandmother has done in her life. “Not only is she turning 104, but she is fighting her fifth cancer diagnosis, has traveled to all 50 states and traveled in Europe with my grandpa,” Greenwood said in an email.
Pledger is her idol in many ways, Greenwood said, and as she sees it, her grandmother’s continued involvement in the world around her also figures in her relative vigor. Her husband, Harry Pledger, who died in 2017 at the age of 98, always encouraged active participation in life and his wife took the advice to heart.
“He said if you stop moving then you die. I think that’s my grandmother’s mind frame,” Greenwood said. It’d be easy to stay in bed all day, but she “would force herself to get up. ... She’s kind of a fighter. She doesn’t put up with stuff.”
Debbie Barnes, Pledger’s daughter and one of her seven children, said her mom is always thinking of things to do, coming up with ways to learn and better herself. “She always has projects and goals,” whether writing in her journal, writing the family history, keeping up with technology, painting, crocheting, playing cards or something else, Barnes said.
Pledger was born June 10, 1917, which means she’s lived through both the Spanish flu and COVID-19 pandemics. But one of her first memories isn’t of death and illness, but rather of trains. “My earliest memory is of my grandfather holding me in his arms and watching the choo-choos go by,” she said. That was on her grandpa’s farm in Riverdale, then just a rural outpost.
Her early years were in the Ogden area, and then during high school, she moved to Hollywood, California, when her dad got a job there. Later, she returned to Utah, settling in North Ogden. After her kids grew up, she worked at the Internal Revenue Service here in Weber County, among other places. Her husband worked at Defense Depot Ogden as a supervisor and along the way came the couple’s seven kids. Now Pledger has 31 grandchildren and 80-plus great-grandchildren.
She laments what she sees as the loss of innocence of the old days, when you didn’t have to lock your door at night and you had actual conversations with neighbors. “It was just a more gentle world altogether,” Pledger said.
Still, there have been plenty of positive shifts over the last 104 years, notably advances in technology and medicine. “So many, many changes. I’ve seen so many changes. It’s incredible,” Pledger said.
And through it all, Barnes said her mom has rolled with the punches, adjusted and plugged away. “I think she is so strong and resilient. ... She keeps going,” Barnes said.