Ruth Newman, who died earlier this month, was just four when the San Francisco earthquake struck in 1906, leaving over 3,000 people dead.
Her daughter Beverley Dodds, herself now 85, says her mother remembers her father picking her up and running out of the house. ‘She would tell us she remembered my grandmother being upset because they had just milked the cow earlier… and put it in containers that got thrown to the floor’.
The family was living on a ranch 70 miles north of the city and their home was undamaged but many others were not so lucky: half the city’s 400,000 residents were left homeless. The quake lasted less than a minute but ignited fires around the city that burned for three days,
With Ruth Newman’s death there is now just one known survivor of the earthquake still alive, William Del Monte, who was three month’s old at the time.
Having survived the quake, what was the secret for Ruth’s long life? Daughter Beverley told the Daily Mail that it may have been down to good genes and a glass of scotch and water every night before bed. We’ve seen that alcohol is fairly often cited as a cause of longevity and while there’s some evidence for the belief it remains controversial. We’ll address genes in a future blog but there’s little doubt they are critical to longevity and Ruth’s family is strong evidence for that – her older brother Barney lived to 108 and their younger sister Genevieve to 103.
But there are also other possible contributory factors. Ruth stayed active knitting, baking and gardening, and continued to drive and play golf until her mid-90s. In a future blog, we’ll look at whether ‘a good walk spoiled’, as Mark Twain famously called golf, could help you live longer.
photo credit: San Francisco earthquake and fire, 1906 via photopin (license)
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