106-year-old Ruth Touschner leads life of humility, simplicity


Two world wars, 18 presidents, two economic depressions, and a host of social justice movements – a lot has changed in the last 106 years. One thing that has remained perfectly stagnant is Ruth Touschner’s sense of humility. 

“I’m just an everyday person,” Ruth said.” “I’m just me, and I don’t think any more of myself at 106 than I did at 50.”

Ruth maintains there’s no secret to her longevity, but good genes could certainly play a role. Her own mother, Ann, lived until she was 106. 

“I never thought about this 100 business at all,” Ruth said. “And I never thought about her being that old when she died.”

Ruth grew up in the small town of Dushore, Pa. Her father passed away when she was just 13 years old. She and her older sister, Frances, lived with their mother on a farm. She went to public school until 8th grade – an education level not uncommon for the time period – and then went to work at a silk mill.

Dushore is where Ruth met her husband, Vincent. 

“He lived just a few blocks away. I knew him all my life,” Ruth said. 

The couple moved to Elmira for work, which they found at the Elmira Knitting Mill, which used to sit on Prescott Avenue in Elmira Heights. 

They had two children, James and Fran, and five grandchildren. Fran passed away suddenly in his sixties. The family suspects he had a heart attack.

“I miss him terribly,” Ruth said.

Now that most of her immediate family has passed away, Ruth relies on religion to combat the lonelieness she often suffers from. 

“That’s what keeps me going right now,” she said.

She feels “very lucky” to have a close relationship with her daughter-in-law, Dorothy, who is married to Ruth’s eldest son, James. At the time we spoke to Ruth, James was in the hospital. 

“He’s all I got left, but I don’t get to see him very often because of his health,” Ruth said. “As long as he and Dorothy are together, that’s my main thing.”

She also forgoes most modern technology. 

“I had everything I ever wanted or need,” Ruth said.

She did, however, reluctantly accept a microwave from James and Dorothy as a Christmas gift. Although she didn’t want it at the time, Ruth admits “it’s a wonderful thing to have.”

She now resides in the Chemung County Nursing Facility.

Ruth received a letter from former first lady Michelle Obama on her 100th birthday. 

“I was surprised, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s nice to get a letter.”

Ruth’s birthday is November, 21.

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