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‘I don’t believe it myself’: Madison Twp. ‘survivor’ and former teacher turns 104

To celebrate being 104 years old, like Ruth Ann Slade did Tuesday afternoon, one must have good genes and what her friend called “inner strength.”

Slade, who spent 37 years as a first- and second-grade teacher in Poasttown, has beaten breast cancer twice and persevered after her leg was pinned under a patio door for 18 hours as her body temperatures fell to dangerous levels.

“I see a survivor,” said Chuck Veidt, 60, who cares for Slade in his West Alexandria Road residence. “She is something else. A true survivor. Her mind is better than mine. She’s a tough act to follow.”

When asked about her 104th birthday, Slade said: “I don’t believe it myself.”

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About 10 years ago, Veidt checked on Slade in her home up the street from his to see if she needed anything from the grocery store. He was shocked to see her lying face down in the kitchen as about a foot of snow accumulated just outside the door. She was rushed to Middletown Regional Hospital, where her body temperature returned to safe levels after two hours. She suffered frost bite.

She later told Veidt she listened to the furnace turn off and on so she wouldn’t fall asleep.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, she had her left breast removed. Thirty-one years later, the cancer returned in her right breast.

Longevity is part of Slade’s DNA. Her father and mother lived to be 91 and 89, respectively, though she has buried her two younger brothers and sister.

She credits eating fresh food from the family garden for her long life, but Veidt chimed in that Slade often told him not being married was the reason.

Born in a farmhouse in Madison Twp. in 1914, Slade graduated from Middletown High School in 1932. Her last MHS class reunion was her 60th in 1992. She’d probably be the only one still alive for her 86th class reunion.

“A class of one,” Veidt said with a smile.

Slade taught two years in a one-room school house, then 35 years after Poasttown built a new school. One of her former first-grade students, Homer Hartman, 86, attended Slade’s birthday party. Before Hartman was wheeled into the house, Slade gave a warning: “He’s going to tell a bunch of lies about me.”

Hartman didn’t disappoint. While he called Slade his “favorite” teacher, he said she frequently put him in the corner of the classroom.

“She didn’t let me get away with much,” he said.

She responded: “I never put him in the corner. None of my students.”

Slade retired in 1972 and said there is no way she could teach today because of the lack of discipline shown by some students.

“Kids would tell me where to go,” she said with a smile.

Is Slade afraid to die? She just shook her head.

“A new experience for me,” she said.

She paused, then added: “When (God) comes for me, I will be ready to go.”

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