Mar 19, 2012 - 07:46 PM
Were it not for the throng of family and friends crowded 150 strong into a VIP suite at Infineon Raceway, all of whom insist that it’s true, there’s no way you would believe that Ruth Halleck is about to be 85 years old.
Seventy maybe, 85 – never.
Ruth is wearing a Christmas red, skin-tight pants suit with a stylish black belt, a “Grand Prix of Monaco” embroidered T-shirt and black boots with three-inch heels. An hour earlier, she squeezed her 5-foot, 10-inch frame into a simraceway Lola SRW-F3 open-wheeled racecar and took off around Infineon’s 12-turn, 2.5 mile road course at speeds over 100 miles per hour.
And what was that like for a great-grandmother with 55 grandchildren?
“Well,” said the woman sometimes called Grandma Ruthie, and at other times called simply “hot” by her daughter, Becky Gentry, “it was very difficult getting into the car because my legs are so long. And then the helmet kept slipping down over my eyes so I could just see through this little slit. But it was fun.”
The helmet intervention didn’t stop her from hitting speeds of more than 100 mph, but Ruth admits that at one point she spun out, coating the Lola with a healthy layer of mud. “I got that car pretty dirty, you know. I felt kind of bad.”
But racing a formula car at Infineon isn’t the most exciting thing Ruth Halleck has done. For her 80th birthday, she went skydiving, and she loved it.
“If you ever have the chance to jump out of an airplane,” she urges, “please do. You’ll love it.”
Which is pretty much how everyone around Ruth feels about her. “She’s a caregiver for all of us,” said another daughter, whose name was lost in the crowd of family members. “We just love her.”
“I’ve had a lot of happiness,” said Ruth, “lot’s of wonderful children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Daughter Becky describes her as a “wild, hot 85-year-old,” as three generations flow in and out of the circle of her love with hugs and smiles.
Ruth has “buried three husbands” and now has a 91-year-old boyfriend. She has been a model, a pilot and once owned Kozy Katz, a dress shop in Rohnert Park. She now lives in Sebastopol but loves to travel.
When she’s 90, she says, she’ll go for a hot air balloon ride to celebrate. So far she hasn’t decided what to do for 100.
Article from the SONOMA NEWS MAGAZINE