Centenarian Rubisch recalls life before modern conveniences
By EmmaLee Italia | Correspondent
Although she just celebrated her 100th birthday in February, Jennie Rubisch of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish, Beverly, doesn’t think she’s old, as family and friends can attest.
“One time when visiting [Wiley’s Christian Retirement Community, Marlton], I was taking Jennie in the wheelchair to the dining area,” recalled fellow parishioner JoAnn D’Noia, who frequently visits Rubisch. “She puts up her hand to me and says, ‘JoAnn, stop – look at all these people – they are all old.’ At the time she was 98!”
Rubisch, who has two sons, three granddaughters, two grandsons-in-law and three great grandsons, was born Feb. 28, 1918, in Colver, Pa., to Italian immigrants Giuseppe and Mary (Dominick) Bertolame, and had four siblings. Her parents operated a grocery and dry goods store, and the tiny town the family lived in did not have electricity until she was about 10.
Two siblings both died in their teens following auto and bus accidents, which affected their father so deeply that he was never able to work again.
“The result was that mom was raised in a family where her mother was strong-willed and feisty, as were my mother and her sisters,” said Dennis Rubisch, Jennie’s son.
Rubisch worked as a sales clerk for a local women’s clothing retailer and met her future husband, Jim Rubisch. They married Nov. 8, 1945, and had two children, James and Dennis. As newlyweds they lived with Jim’s parents, which had no indoor toilet.
“Eventually they moved into a house next to [my mother’s] parents, which had a toilet in the basement but no bathroom,” Dennis said. “Saturday nights were ‘bath nights’ at my grandmother’s house, who had the luxury of a full bathroom including a bathtub!”
Despite not being able to attend college, Rubisch and her husband valued education and saw to it that their sons had opportunities that they did not.
After numerous moves due to work, the family relocated to Edgewater Park in 1960, and Rubisch’s mother and sisters Helen and Elda moved in with her family in 1963 after Helen’s husband died.
In 1970, Rubisch returned to retail, working with her sister Helen at Kessler’s Department Store, Riverside. Both she and Jim retired in 1988 when both stores they worked for closed, and spent many years traveling.
As members of St. Joseph Parish, Edgewater Park (now part of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish) since 1960, Jennie and Jim attended Mass both on Sundays and often daily Mass, participating in various church activities after retirement – Rosary-Altar Society, Knights of Columbus and senior activities, to name a few. Following Jim’s passing in 2008, Jennie continued to attend Mass with the help of family and friends who would offer her a ride.
Depressed at the time following her husband’s passing, Dennis recalled his mother saying to her pastor at the time, Father Michael Lynch, that “she was ready to go any time.”
“Father Michael said she would have to wait until God was ready for her. I can only guess that her faith, her many good friends and family got her through that difficult time, Dennis said.
“Mom prayed the Rosary every day, remembering and praying for the well-being of our family and friends,” Dennis continued. “To the best of my knowledge, she continues to do so today.”
Rubisch recalled getting the family’s first television, making cookies with her sister, working hard all the time, and going to church as a family.
“I loved going to church with Jim and the boys,” she said. “We went every Sunday, all of us.”
“It’s hard to believe I’m still here,” Rubisch reflected. “I guess I am still here because God is not ready for me yet, and that is the truth!”[[In-content Ad]]