Ruth Zancanella celebrates 100 today |

Ruth Zancanella celebrates 100 today

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – “God won’t take me, and the Devil doesn’t want me,” is Sarah Ruth Zancanella’s way of explaining why she’s still around after 100 years on the planet Earth.

Ask her two granddaughters, Christy and Annie, and they will quickly tell you that Ruth (as she is known, thanks to a surfeit of Sarahs in her family) is a feisty, humorous near-centenarian who until a few years ago was able to walk up the steep stairs leading from Blake Avenue to her house.

“She’s a night owl,” said Annie. “She stays up until midnight every night, and we just laugh and laugh.”

But, Annie continued, her grandmother still reads a book a day, does crossword puzzles “and loves grapefruit every morning. I tell my young friends that I think that’s the secret of a long life.”

As she turns 100 years old today, Ruth will be surrounded by friends, family and well-wishers at a gala party at the home of Ruth’s daughter, Eleanor Zemlock (see detail box).

“Should be a big shindig, we’ve invited almost the whole town,” said Annie during a recent interview,

Ruth’s son, Lawrence “Buzz” Zancanella, reported that she has seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren who are likely to put in a boisterous appearance at the party.

Annie and Christy live with their grandmother, in a wooden-sided log house built in 1934 by Ruth’s uncle, the late Tommy Gould, using logs cut by another family patriarch, Paul Gould.

Ruth, according to her granddaughters, has a habit of staying up rather late and regaling them with stories about her life, starting with her childhood on Missouri Heights, where she was born into the Gould family.

She went to the Carbondale Union School, riding to and from school on horseback, and recalled that she graduated “in 1932 … I guess.”

She held a couple of jobs after finishing high school, including a stint at the Glenwood Springs branch of the U.S. Post Office, and keeping house for the family of J.V. Rose, owner of J.V. Rose Motors and employer of Ruth’s future husband, Lawrence “Bugo” Zancanella, as a mechanic.

The dealership stood at the current site of the Bank of Colorado (formerly the Bank of Glenwood), at 10th and Grand, and the family legend has it that when the property was sold it went with a caveat.

“J.V. said they’d sell them (the bankers) the property as long as they took my grandfather with it,” said Annie with a broad grin.

So Bugo became the handyman at the bank, a job that lasted decades. He also was a veteran volunteer firefighter and a long time town fire chief.

Ruth and Bugo got married on New Year’s Eve between 1935 and 1936, at St. Stephen Catholic Church. She is a lifelong Presbyterian, while Bugo was a confirmed Catholic.

When asked why she picked New Year’s Eve, Ruth replied with a grin, “Why, the next year was 1936, and I didn’t want them to say it [the year of her marriage] was a leap year,” which might have created problems with anniversaries.

As she spoke, she laughed quietly and leaned slightly to her left in her wing chair, so absorbed was she in the telling of her tale.

Ruth and Bugo lived in various settings in their early marriage, as Bugo worked in different jobs and they went about raising two kids, Lawrence “Buzz” Zancanella and Eleanor “Ellie” Zancanella (now Zemlock).

“We lived over there in that building they called the Ice House,” Ruth recalled, explaining that it was the town’s source of ice in the summer months.

“He delivered the ice,” she said of Bugo.

The couple liked to take road trips, many of them to Billings, Montana, where Bugo had relations.

Bugo would start out driving, then turn the wheel over to Ruth, said Annie, “and whenever grandpa dozed off, grandma would take a detour … go on an adventure.”

Ruth’s destinations, she said, were “anyplace” off the beaten track to Billings.

And when Bugo awoke, Ruth said, his invariable first words were, “Where the hell are we?” in a loud voice. She giggled as she said it.

“She’s been all over the state on all sorts of road trips,” Annie continued, as well as such exotic destinations as Panama, Alaska and the Caribbean after Bugo died in 1989.

Ruth was on the state Presbyterian Council and until two years ago kept up her attendance at the First Presbyterian Church, which she said with pride is 125 years old and stands on its original foundation.

Her granddaughters said that at a recent doctor’s visit she was told she could easily live another decade, though Ruth looked skeptical at that idea.

“She keeps Christy and I young, that’s for sure,” said Annie, to which Christy amended, “On our toes. She’s been in really good health, sharp as a tack.”

She was somewhat put out at the fuss being made over her birthday, Christy added, and after a reporter called to set up an interview she immediately demanded to know, “Who told the newspaper?”

Ruth said through a smile, “I’ve got a couple of blabbermouths. I should’a kept ’em locked in their room.”

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