92-year-old Irwin polka fan not ready to slow down
The moment the three accordionists hit the first notes of a lively polka, Ruth Shuster grabbed a partner.
“Da, da da, da, da,” she sang as she swayed and twirled to the music.
Then she moved on to another partner. And another. And another.
“Anybody else want to dance?” the Irwin woman said, a big grin on her face and not a bead of sweat on her brow.
For most of her 92nd birthday party on Monday at the McDonald's Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, where she works in the dining room three days a week, Shuster danced nonstop to the sound of the four-piece polka band.
She took on all comers — women and men, kids and seniors like herself.
Trim, spry and dressed in her work uniform — bright blue T-shirt advertising Fish McBites and a baseball-style cap — she danced with barely a pause to catch her breath, as she does four nights a week at clubs and other venues. She can polka and country line and square dance.
What she can't seem to do is sit still.
“All her life she never walked, she always ran,” said her daughter-in-law Mary Lou Shuster of Hempfield. “And that's her secret.”
To celebrate her March 3 birthday, Shuster's friends and McDonald's co-workers threw her a party at the restaurant, as they have since her 90th.
Friends and family filled the restaurant to celebrate with Shuster, a mother of two, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of two. Her husband died in 1971.
“I should be so lucky to be alive at 92, let alone have the energy and quality of life that she has,” said Betty Anderson, 67, a friend who square dances with Shuster.
Mary Lou Shuster marvels at how many friends her mother-in-law has.
“It's just everywhere you go,” she said.
Many of them know Shuster from dances or from the jobs she's held throughout her life.
At age 18, she worked as a seamstress for the Works Progress Administration, the largest of the Depression-era New Deal agencies begun by the Roosevelt administration. She later worked for A&P and G.C. Murphy, among other businesses.
She most enjoys working at McDonald's, she said.
“I love it here,” she said. “I'm telling you, they are the greatest people to work for.”
Her co-workers said they feel the same about her.
“She's terrific,” assistant manager Neil Shamitis said. “She's the hardest-working employee we have in the dining room. The customers love her. The kids love her.”
Children who regularly come in with their parents and grandparents look for “Ruthie.”
Some brought her cards and flowers for her birthday.
“They are my sweeties,” she said.
Lately, Shuster has been sweet on someone else.
She introduced her co-workers to her “good friend” Ray Scalise, 89, of North Braddock, whom she met at a dance six months ago. They partnered for a dance, and Shuster wouldn't let go.
“She said, ‘You're not going anywhere. You're a good dancer,'” Scalise said. “That's why I'm stuck.”
Scalise said it's hard to keep up with Shuster, even though she is an “older woman.”
“She drags me everywhere,” he joked. “I was 200 pounds, and now I'm down to 140.”
Shuster said there's no special reason why she's still so active at 92. She just takes one day at a time, she said.
“I just live, that's all,” she said. “Live the way I'm living.”
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Unity lawyer to vie for Westmoreland County judgeship
- $7.6M buyout at Hempfield prison site clouds sale
- Court in the Classroom program provides insight for Norwin High School students
- Latrobe police to form DUI task force
- Excela center proposal worries residents of Hempfield neighborhood
- Police claim woman stabbed husband at their Jeannette business
- Sale of former SCI Greensburg prison to advance despite lawmakers’ objections
- Baby sitter arraigned on assault charges; Hempfield woman high on heroin, state police say
- Mt. Pleasant Business District Authority picks officers
- With comprehensive plan on way, Jeannette hears residents’ ideas
- Jeannette teen, charged with killing another, took ‘selfie’ with body, court papers say