Oklahoma twins celebrate a century of living

Oklahoma fraternal twins Ruby Woods and Ruth Martin celebrate their 100th birthdays on Dec. 9, 2013, although icy weather prevented their birthday party.
by Heather Warlick Modified: December 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: December 9, 2013

Two Oklahoma twins join an elite group: celebrating their 100th birthdays, Ruth Martin and Ruby Woods became centenarians Monday and quite likely are the state's oldest living twins. Unfortunately, the weekend's icy weather conditions caused the party their large, close-knit family had been planning to be canceled.

Though the cancellation was disappointing, Ruby's son, Donald Laroy Woods, 73, said Sunday the family will get together when better weather allows.

The twins were featured in The Oklahoman five years ago when they celebrated their 95th birthdays.

“I think it's probably about one in a million that a set of twins both live to be 95,” Ruby Woods said then. While the twins now live more than 100 miles apart — Ruby lives in Fairview, and Ruth lives with her daughter, Karen Kay Gatz, in Oklahoma City, they've always been close in their hearts.

Today, the twins both have some health problems. Both struggle with dementia. Ruby's overall health is good, but her knees keep her from walking much.

Ruth Martin had a stroke a few years ago that affected her speech. She also has kidney problems.

“She's hanging in there,” said Ruth's daughter, Janice Martin, 76, of Oklahoma City. “We've been trying to get her to this 100th birthday. All the time I was growing up, these ladies always celebrated their birthdays together if the weather permitted. It was a family thing and our families were always close.”

Deep roots

These fraternal twins are made of hearty stuff, instilled in them by their parents, Ross and Maude Riley. The two were homesteaders on a farm north of Longdale near Canton Lake.

“My grandpa, Ross Riley, when he married my grandmother, he had 50 cents in his pocket,” said Donald Woods. The day Ruth and Ruby were born, Dec. 9, 1913, their father and very pregnant mother were working together, slaughtering a pig. When Maude went into labor, Ross rushed off in his horse and buggy to fetch the nearest doctor. Meanwhile, Maude's sister-in-law, Lea Ritter, went for the town midwife. By the time the doctor made it to Maude's side, she'd successfully delivered the babies.

Farm girls

The twins grew up as farm girls but were more different than similar.

Ruby was always at her father's side, tending the farm, working and sweating outdoors.

Ruth was more the nurturing type and would spend much of her time helping their mother tend the home.

Ruth loved to wear pink, and Ruby preferred blue, a point of contention between the twins whose mother always insisted on dressing them alike. But, the two shared so much as children and teens, Ruby said in a previous interview, they couldn't help but be somewhat alike.

Ruby graduated a year early as valedictorian at Longdale High School and went on to receive a teaching certificate. For several years, she taught in one-room schoolhouses. She'd get up early, tend the farm, milk the cows and deliver milk on her way to teach school. That is, until she married Raymond Woods and resigned from teaching.

by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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