100th birthday brings memories of lost son
What could be more terrifying to a parent than to find out a child is missing?
Ruby Broce of Legacy Park in Peabody has experienced such a heartbreak.
She will celebrate her 100th birthday Sunday, but the loss of her son, David, almost 40 years ago is still fresh in her mind. On a shelf in her room at Legacy Park are several three-ring notebooks full of articles and letters relating to her son. They were compiled by caring relatives.
David, her only child, was not a “kid” when he was abducted in 1971. He was a 31-year-old aerospace engineer working on a military base in Alabama.
When Ruby and her husband learned about the abduction, they moved to Alabama to aid in the search for their son.
After eight weeks of searching with no results, the couple returned to their home in Missouri. They received numerous phone calls and letters from people who claimed to have knowledge of David.
The couple ached after the loss of their son and were not even able to give him a proper burial. Three years and three months later his remains were found, but the case was never solved.
The waiting and wondering were over, but the void in their lives remained.
Broce has been living at Legacy Park for almost five years. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment for several years. After several falls and a broken hip confined her to a wheelchair, she was transferred to nursing care.
“It’s nice here,” she said. “The people are nice.”
She seems to have inherited her parents’ longevity. Her mother lived to be 91, and her father was over 100 when he died.
Despite being the oldest among 10 siblings, she is the only survivor.
“I’m the only one left,” she said sadly.
The retired schoolteacher retains her sight and spends much time reading, but she is not sure that living to be 100 is a good thing.
“I don’t know if I’m lucky,” she said. “When you get this old, you don’t have many things you can do, and sometimes my stomach doesn’t work right.”
Broce has experienced many of the advances that have been made since her birth in 1910. She witnessed the arrival of the first car in her community. She also remembers when the rural school in which she was teaching got electricity.
“Before, when it was rainy or cloudy, there were certain lessons I couldn’t teach,” she said. “When electricity came, I could just flip a switch.”
She and her husband were living in Wichita when airplanes were a new phenomenon. Local airports offered rides for $1, which the couple enjoyed more than once.
Broce never learned to use computers, but she did use slides and slide shows to enhance instruction in the classroom.
Reading is Broce’s main pastime. She said she has read 134 books so far this year. She enjoys visiting with people and sharing her many experiences from the past. She has kept journals for many years and has collected a large stack of them.
She said her health is “pretty good,” but she is tired and ready to go to her rest. She said she has distributed her possessions among her many nieces and nephews.
“I don’t know why I’ve lived so long,” she said, with weariness in her voice. “I do try to eat right, and I do exercises. I try to take care of myself.”
Broce said she has voted in every election since she became eligible to vote. In recent years, she has used absentee ballots to cast her votes. She did so again last week.
She is not aware of any plan in the works to celebrate her centennial, but with the large number of friends and relatives who know her as “Aunt Ruby,” she is sure to have visitors when that special day arrives.