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'Ms. Feisty' only doing her duty

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

Ruby White, an 85-year-old, 5-foot-tall grandmother, said she was only doing her civic duty when she used her walking cane to bash a would-be robber over the head, driving him away from the cashier he was terrorizing.

"Wouldn't anyone else do the same?" she asked Tuesday, mystified that many people consider her actions heroic.

Justin R. Petroff, 29, who gives addresses in Glenshaw and Tarentum, was arrested Monday on various charges including attempted robbery, simple assault and reckless endangerment for the incident that occurred Sept. 16 at the Family Dollar Store in Central City Plaza in New Kensington.

White said she is not afraid to testify against Petroff at his preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 3.

"I'm not afraid to face him," said White, a lifelong resident of New Kensington, Westmoreland County. "I'd probably give him a lecture."

White was waiting near the counter while her friend was getting a shopping cart outside when a man approached the cashier, DeAnna Kelly, and demanded cash from the register.

The man had a manual can opener and held it to Kelly's wrist.

White, seeing that Kelly was scared, used her cane to beat the man on the head until he pulled away from the cashier and fled out the door, knocking White to the floor.

"You ask me how many times I (hit) him and I honestly don't know," White said.

"I whomped him as hard as I could to knock some sense into him. I told him, 'You're a grown man. You should be out looking for work.' "

After the would-be robber fled, Kelly said she kissed White on the cheek and "called her a godsend."

White said her arm and shoulder bothered her after the fall but that she is better now.

Still, she can't escape the unwanted attention her actions brought.

"Since then, I've said to myself, 'I should've minded my own business.' But when have I ever done that?"

People approach White when she's shopping to ask about the incident.

Her church, Pittsburgh East Full Gospel in Plum, honored her last Sunday with red roses, a gift certificate to a local seafood restaurant and a standing ovation.

The Rev. Ron Nadeau likened her to the biblical figure Caleb, whom he said returned to Israel at age 85 to drive adversaries from the promised land with spirit and determination similar to White's.

"Ruby's the type of individual where you wish you had a church full of Rubys," Nadeau said.

White is still considering a request to appear on the "Good Morning America" television program.

She objects to the term "feisty" that the media has used to describe her, but White's daughter, Becky White, said it is an apt description.

"Everyone else but her would say she's feisty," her daughter said. "Well, it certainly put New Kensington on the map. Now they know. We've got Ms. Feisty here."

White and store manager Linda Blystone also wanted to set the record straight about what she said to the would-be robber.

When police recounted the incident to the media, they said White had some "choice words" for the man.

"She doesn't swear," Blystone said. "Her choice words were to get a job."

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