Okay, let me stipulate from the get-go, that this column is anything but impartial.
It is biased. It has a distinct point of view.
But that doesn’t make any word of it less true.
I think Ruth Ann Widman and I met for the first time when we were about 5 years old.
She was Ruth Ann Zearbaugh then and lived a couple doors north of our house on Pleasant Street in Portland.
Ruth Ann had, as I recall, a playhouse that consisted of a tablecloth. The cloth had been imprinted with colorful designs of a house. Put it over a card table and — voila — you had a little house. The card table/house was on the front porch of the Zearbaugh house, and I clearly remember playing there, though I don’t recall who did the cooking or who took out the trash when we “played house.”
Our grade school years were spent at Judge Haynes Elementary, where we were in first grade together. By then, we’d developed the inevitable kid friction between boys and girls. She was a classmate more than a playmate.
But she was still a part of the neighborhood. So that meant summer evenings playing “60,” the tag game that seemed to dominate during those years. (Last one tagged became “it” for the next round. As more kids were tagged, the group grew until it hunted down the last one. The resemblance to zombie movies is remarkable.)
At some point, Ruth Ann’s family moved to the east side of town. But we were reunited in junior high.
We were both pretty good students, though she was far more dedicated than I was. And we were in the same section.
When our section decided to have a series of parties, Ruth Ann volunteered her parents’ basement. I can’t tell you whether it was seventh grade or eighth, but I know for sure that it was the last time I ever attempted to do the limbo. (Perhaps I should amend that last sentence to say it was the last time I gracefully attempted to do the limbo.)
High school brought us together again. We were lab partners in chemistry class, and I’ve known for years that I pulled her grade down. She believes we’re fortunate that I didn’t blow the place up.
Fast forward a few years and our paths crossed again. Ruth Ann, who by then had a degree in journalism, was back in Jay County after working in real estate development in the Ozarks. She landed in the newsroom of The Commercial Review, not long after I’d become editor.
From there it was the Youth Service Bureau then Jay-Randolph Developmental Services, yet all along the way the two of us have remained friends.
When the leadership opening developed at JRDS, I was honored Ruth Ann asked me to be a reference. It was as glowing as possible.
For more than 20 years now, Ruth Ann and her husband then ex-husband Dale Widman have been part of a dinner club group with Connie and me.
You don’t have dinner with someone for more than 20 years without building a firm friendship. For that matter, you don’t reach back to that playhouse on Pleasant Street or those contentious sessions as lab partners without cementing the firmest of friendships.
So, this column is biased. It is as far from impartial as you could imagine.
Happy retirement, Ruth Ann.