On March 29, 1922, Caroline Ruth (Weiland) Weden was the first child born to William and Mary (Boorman) Weiland of Avon, NY. She was a premature baby, weighing only 4 pounds at birth. She was so small, and nobody was sure she would survive, but Ruth’s grandma made up a little bassinet and placed her on the oven door to keep her warm. Who could have imagined then that little Ruth would not only survive, but live to see her 100th year?
Ruth has many pleasant memories about growing up and living in Avon. Her parents lived and worked at the Hardy house for a number of years, which is the gray house that sits on the corner of Genesee St and Pineview Heights. At the time Ruth was growing up there, Pineview Heights did not exist, and there was a large hill running down from the house to the little creek that flows nearby. The children used to love sledding down that hill on the neighbor boys’ toboggan, and oftentimes ended up by the creek.
It was after one of these times sledding that Ruth fell ill with the chickenpox. She was so sick that she fell into a coma. Old Dr. Collins drove his horse and buggy down to the Hardy house to take care of her. He stayed with the family for two days, and honestly did not expect little Ruth to live. However, Ruth surprised them all and pulled through. She remembers that Dr. Collins wept for joy and took a little doll out of his bag to give her as a present. She kept that doll for many, many years.
Next door to the Hardys’ house was the home of Mr. Smith, who delivered milk year-round and ice in the winter. Each winter, Ruth would be allowed to go with Mr. Hardy and Mr. Smith in Mr. Smith’s sleigh to Conesus Lake to get big blocks of ice to deliver to folks. For young Ruth, this was a treat and great fun to get bundled up and sit under the horsehair blanket while the big Clydesdale horses pulled the sleigh.
Ruth was very close to her grandparents and even lived with them for a time. In fact, the first vehicle she ever rode in belonged to her grandfather. She would sit in the car and was allowed to turn it on while her grandfather turned the crank.
Her grandparents were very religious and wanted her to go to a Catholic school, so Ruth was sent to St. Agnes. At that time, the nuns ran the school. Ruth remembers how she was held back in the 6th grade because she had to spend so much time at home taking care of her sick mother. The nuns would walk down to Ruth’s home to check on things and make sure she was okay. Sister Mary Francis Leone was one of her favorites.
After graduating from the 8th grade at St. Agnes, she attended public school. At lunchtime, Ruth would walk home for lunch. This was during the Great Depression, and food was scarce. Ruth would always share her lunch with one of her little sisters. A typical lunch for them was oatmeal and canned milk, along with homemade bread and hand-churned butter.
One of Ruth’s favorite memories was getting her first hair perm when she was 12 years old. Her mother put her on the trolley that crossed the Five Arch Bridge, and for ten cents Ruth rode up to Rochester all by herself, where she got a spiral perm for $2.00. The hairdresser then made sure she got back on the trolley to Avon.
As an adult, Ruth had five boys: Bob, Don, Ron, and Tom Hungerford and Jim Weden. Through her boys, her family line has grown exponentially. She is so proud of and loves each and every one of them. While life has taken Ruth and her family to live and work in different locations across the country, their roots are here in Avon. For Ruth, this is home.
Ruth held several jobs later in her life. In 1989, Ruth went to work at St. Agnes School. The children there loved her, and all called her “Grandma Ruth.” The name stuck, and now everyone calls her Grandma Ruth. She worked there for a for another 23 years, finally retiring for good at the incredible age of 93! Grandma Ruth says this was the happiest job she ever had and many precious memories were made there.
When asked what her favorite spots in Avon are, she said that she has always loved the Avon Inn and the Five Arch Bridge. In her younger days, they always went down to the Five Arch Bridge “to sit on the riverbank, gab, and just watch the water flow.”
Grandma Ruth never thought she would live this long. She has had illnesses, surgeries, and almost lost her life a few times. She is grateful that she is still here, though, and even though pretty much everyone she grew up with has passed away, she still knows many of their descendants. She says, “To live a long life, you have to keep busy.” Do as much as you can, while you can, and no matter what happens, just take it on the chin and start all over again - no matter how many times you have to.
Article by Pamela Bickford, Special Thanks to the Avon Preservation & Historical Society // Genesee Valley Publications