Ruth Hofto credits her long life to all the walking she did while growing up.
But there’s also her love of strawberry cake.
And her piano-playing dog.
Something got her to 107, the age she’ll reach Saturday.
Hofto was born Ruth Ayers on May 13, 1910, in Black Diamond. Her father was a Chilean coal miner; her mother was from Canada.
Her life has encompassed a long span of history. In 1910, there were only 46 United States. The RMS Titanic was under construction in Belfast. Men were digging the Panama Canal.
Today, she uses a walker to get around the art-filled University Place home she shares with her daughter, Jacki.
A 2008 stroke robbed her of some motor skills and her ability to paint, a lifelong avocation. Words are sometimes hard for her to find.
But she finds them.
“I was happy,” Hofto said of her childhood.
Her father’s mining job kept the family on the move.
She remembers sitting on a split rail fence, entertaining her friends by playing a ukulele. Cougars, bears and coyotes roamed the fields and forests. Her dad carried a gun.
“They were always around us when we were walking home,” she said of the wild animals. “There were 10 of us kids and we all had to stay in a crowd.”
During World War I, she went to a community rally where her younger brother was made up to look like an injured soldier.
“They had a big bonfire and they burned the kaiser in effigy,” she said.
While there she watched a show that featured a trained dog.
“It walked a tight rope clear across and I said I’m always going to have a little white dog,” Hofto recalled. “And I always have,” she said while her current white dog, Pixie, watched her every move.
Hofto trained Pixie to play a toy piano. She’s no Liberace but the Maltese happily pounds out a tune when she knows a treat is coming.
While still a girl living in Issaquah, Hofto saw a horrendous accident involving a horse-drawn coal car. The animals whinnied in distress.
“That’s why I’ve been so afraid of horses all my life,” she said.
“She always painted horses but she was always afraid of them,” Jacki said.
The horses in Issaquah soon gave way to trucks and Model Ts as Hofto watched Washington’s transition into the Industrial Age. She can’t remember when she saw her first airplane but she didn’t get on one until she was in her 50s.
In 1928, Hofto moved to Tacoma and worked at a soda stand. Later, she got a job at J.C. Penney, where she shook the hand of founder, James Cash Penney.
He was on a bond-selling tour.
“I didn’t have the money to get any,” she said.
Hofto has a photo of herself as a 16-year-old. Her dark hair swirls around her head. She cut itself using a mirror attached to her neck, she said.
While in school she had only one boyfriend.
“I didn’t care about boys,” she said. “I pitched them aside.”
But she found one eventually. She married Henry Hofto in 1934 — the height of the Great Depression.
“He was nice,” she said. “He was a gentleman.”
She recalls one of their first dates.
“He took me down to the ocean, and I’d never been to the ocean,” Hofto recalled.
It was on that trip that she discovered she had what some call “abilities.”
“All at once I said, ‘My Aunt Nellie died,’” she said.
When she got home her mother informed her of her aunt’s death.
Other premonitions would follow but the abilities have waned.
“I was (psychic), but I don’t know if I am now,” she said.
Henry, a builder, constructed the home Hofto and Jacki live in today. Built in 1955, the house later was moved from Lakewood to its present location off 67th Avenue.
Hofto laments she’s unable to pursue her century-long love of painting. She started when she was 6. She sold much of her art over the years but has kept seascapes and portraits of Jesus and Jacki and others.
“She has the vision in her head,” her daughter said. “She knows exactly what she wants to do. But she can’t work her fingers.”
Instead, she listens to audio books of Louis L’Amour westerns.
She prefers male narrators.
“If they aren’t little wizened-up men,” Hofto added.
Hofto doesn’t watch too much TV: “They laugh too much,” she explained.
She likes to go to the senior center at Community Connection Place in University Place.
“She loves to be around younger people,” Jacki said. Her friends are in their 80s and 90s.
“She’s still enjoying life and socializing,” Jacki said.
Hofto is a regular at Trader Joe’s, where the grocery store’s staff made her a poster-size birthday card in 2016.
One thing she never misses, Jacki said, is a party: “It’s a big deal for her.”
For her 107th, Hofto will have two parties: On Friday, her friends at the senior center will fete her. Family will celebrate again Saturday.
Cake and guests are a must. Sometimes firefighters make an appearance.
“The firemen say, ‘Oh, gosh, you’ve got strong hands,’ ” Hofto said. “And I blow my candles out every year.”