VINTON–Ruth McManaway Stafford celebrated her 95th birthday with her canasta group at the Charles R. Hill Senior Center in Vinton on August 27. The party was truly a surprise–organized by her friends who gather to play “Hand and Foot” on the second and fourth Thursday each month. She joined the group in 2010.
Her friend Bob Keniston, who is a retired teacher from Hidden Valley Middle School, served as emcee for the event. They became friends when she taught him square dancing fifteen years ago—when she was in her 80’s. He compiled and shared the milestones of her life for the celebration from information provided by her sons.
Stafford was born on August 31, 1920, in Elgood, West Virginia, to Giles and Sadie Skeens McManaway. Elgood is located in southern West Virginia, in Mercer County near Bluefield.
She has one brother, Paul. They grew up in Princeton where she graduated from Princeton High School in 1937 at age 17.
She married Hoge Tyler Stafford (known as HT) on March 5, 1940. Their twin sons, Ronald and Donald, were born on April 10, 1941, and still live in the Roanoke area. Stafford said she has been “blessed with five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.” Her husband passed away in 2009 after 69 years of marriage.
The Staffords moved to the Roanoke area in 1942 when HT was transferred here by Norfolk and Western Railway. She was an original member of the West Virginia Women’s Club whose members were women from West Virginia who had moved to the Roanoke area.
She stayed at home to raise her sons and then began working at Montgomery Ward and later at Sears. She retired as Credit Manager from the J.C. Penney Crossroads Mall location in 1982.
Ruth and HT were the original members of a square dance club called the “Grand Squares,” where HT became the square dance caller in the 1990’s. The club disbanded in 2005.
For almost 30 years, the Staffords spent Friday evenings square-dancing with friends at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church in Vinton. Ruth still comes to the weekly events.
Stafford said the secret to her long life is staying active and credits dancing, playing cards, and visiting with friends with keeping her young in spirit. Her mother lived to be ninety-six and a half.
Keniston said that “when it comes to playing cards, Ruth is a dynamo. She has played cards for over 50 years with various groups of friends.”
“I still love it and I hope to continue coming to canasta for a lot longer,” said Stafford.
She said that she began playing cards as a hobby when she and her husband moved to Roanoke. Her fellow players said that she loves to win–especially coming from behind to win.
“At 95 years young, Ruth is a bright, active lady who loves socializing with her family and friends.” said Keniston.
Stafford has been an active member of Huntington Court Methodist Church for 63 years—since 1952—and receives frequent visits from her pastor, Jeff Wilson.
“Our dear friend Ruth is an exceptional woman with a legacy of life events that makes her loved by too many people to recognize,” said Keniston. “We can only hope she continues to live at home, to be active playing cards and attending square dances, and to enjoy friends and family for a long, long time.”
Most members of the canasta group at the Senior Center are retired. Betty Gardner who is a generation younger than most of the other players, said that they are a motivating force for her.
“Many of them are 80 years old or older and it’s hard to keep up with them,” said Gardner.
Penny Beyer, who directs the programs at the Senior Center said that, “Ruth is a true inspiration to all of us.”