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Mount Washington's Ruth Ball reaches milestone birthday

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100 and still going strong

By Alex Wimsatt

 MOUNT WASHINGTON - While this week marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, it also marks a milestone for one Mount Washington woman.
 On Tuesday, longtime Mount Washington resident Ruth Ball will celebrate her 100th birthday.
 Though her century-birthday is certainly a rare feat, Ball said it's just another day to her.
 "I don't feel any different," she said with a smirk.
 Witty and outgoing, Ball said her health isn't bad, but her mind tells her she can do things her body won't let her do.
 Staring at the walker she uses to get around, Ball said smiling, "That thing slows me down."
 Asked what her secret was to living a long, happy life, Ball joked, "Someone asked me that a while back and I told them onions. I eat lots of onions," she said laughing.
  If you ask her family what's kept her going all these years they'll tell you it's her strong will.
 In all her life Ball has never let anything slow her down.
 The daughter of a coal miner, brought up in the mountains of western Virginia, Ball was taught the value of hard work and determination at a young age.
 Growing up in the early 20th century, a time when automobiles and electricity were just becoming popular, life was hard, but neither Ball nor her family knew any different.  
 "We were poor and didn't know it," Ball said. "In the mountains everyone was on an even keel."
 Ball was 17 years old when the stock market crashed in 1929 prompting the Great Depression.
 Ball remembered her family was affected by the depression, just as everyone was, but her father was able to keep his job at the mines and he provided well for his wife and 10 children.
 "My daddy always saw that we had what we needed," she said.
 When Ball was a teenager she and her family moved to eastern Kentucky near Harlan, and while the depression had subsided, she and her family lived no differently than they had before.
 Her father still worked at the mines and her mother still looked after her house and kids.
 Ball got a job at a soda shop in Harlan and it was there she met her future husband, businessman Sterling Ball.
 The two were married in 1936 when Ball was 24 years old. Nineteen years later, the couple moved to Louisville where Ball's husband got a job working for General Electric.
 Never one to sit idle, Ball worked at a shoe store off Preston Highway in Louisville.
 In 1960 Ball and her husband moved to Meadowview Drive off Bardstown Road in Mount Washington, where Sterling Ball had built a handful of houses.
 Ball, who called herself a "city girl," said she was ill at ease when she, her husband and their daughter, Brenda, left Louisville for Bullitt County, which was mostly farmland at the time. 
 What struck Ball about Mount Washington when she moved there was how few people lived in the city.
 "There were only a few hundred people," Ball said.
 Ball remembered her daughter's high school friends telling her she had to watch what she said about people around town because everybody knew everybody. 
 Despite the initial culture shock, Ball quickly adjusted to life in Mount Washington and she made many friends.
 Living history
 Though Ball lived through many of the events that shaped the early 20th century, she couldn't recall many of them because she said she was essentially cut off from the rest of the world growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and western Virginia.
 "'Bout all I know is we ate and worked and slept and lived," she said.
 Asked what were some of the biggest changes she's seen over the years, Ball said technology for one.
 When Ball was a child, computers, stereos and iPods were inconceivable. She and her family had little in terms of entertainment.
 Ball said she and her family listened to music on a player piano to pass the time. They also had a Victrola, a hand-crank powered record player commonly used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
 "I lot of people thought we were rich," Ball said.
 Ball remembered when automobiles were first mass-produced, which made them affordable to working class Americans like her family.
 Incidentally, Ball said her brother was the first person in her family to buy a car.
 Besides technology, Ball said people have changed as well, mostly because today's social norms are so different than when she was young.
  "We're used to having more now," she said. "Back then you never heard of people living like they do now."
 She quickly recalled when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
 Ball said she was sitting at home in Mount Washington watching television when the news broke that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
 "I thought it was a horrible thing," she said. "I felt for his family."
 Ball also remembered when an American became the first to set foot on the moon.
 "I was shocked I didn't think it could be done until after it happened. Then, to me, anything was possible," she said.
 Lesson learned
 If you ask Ball what's the most important thing she's learned in her 100 years, she'll tell you plain and simple: always have faith.
 "We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect, but we can strive to that place," she said. "I've lived a hundred years and it doesn't compare to eternity...our eternal life is what's most important.
 Looking back, Ball said she wished she could have done some things different, everyday things, but overall she's had a good life.
 "The lord has blessed me," Ball said smiling. "Faith is the key to happiness."