Centenarian celebrates a path well-travelled

WINNIPEG, MB–She's a classy lady, a teacher who just keeps on teaching and learning. For Reta McRuer, 102, life is full and rich. She delights to recount many of her experiences.

Reta began her teaching career at King George V School in Norwood. During more than 40 years in the classroom, Reta shared her love of learning with many students. Just recently one of them, now 93, came with his wife to visit her. Reta corresponds regularly with another, Ruth Reid, who recently celebrated her 75th birthday.

“I loved my students, “ Reta says, “and they loved me, I think, at least most of them."

That love is evident. Reta cherishes a small photo, showing her with five eight-year old students, Ruth among them, who had pooled their resources to buy a corsage for their teacher.

Reta and her sister, Marian visited the United Kingdom in 1958, learning from famous writers and speakers at Keswick. Even today, Reta is an avid reader and a lover of books. Among her favourites is a well-worn copy of Lloyd John Ogilvie's Quiet Moments with God. She purchased at least two dozen copies of this book to share with friends.

Long before sponsoring campers was a common practice, Reta, Marian and their mother chose to send five children from one home to Gimli Bible Camp for several successive summers. She still corresponds with one of them, cheering this woman on in her spiritual journey.

Young airmen coming to Winnipeg who visited Elim Chapel often found themselves in the McRuer home after church, enjoying home cooked meals. During the Second World War, Reta sent care packages and many letters to those young men. She honours the memory of those who died in the war, as part of a history book she prepared for Elim Chapel. The book is now kept in the City of Winnipeg Archives.

One of the young men who survived the war stopped in to see Reta on his way home. Not long after, Wes Milne entered a Baptist Bible College and later taught in Asia. When some of Wes' students graduated and wanted further education at the University of Manitoba, Wes implored Reta to take these young Chinese students under her wing.

Once again, she and her sister offered hospitality, beginning with a welcome at the airport. They helped the students find their way and gave them a home away from home. In turn, the students did their best to translate from Cantonese or Mandarin so Reta and Marian were not left out during their Bible studies. These young Chinese Christians were among the founding members of the Chinese Christian Alliance.

Reta continues to correspond with many of her Asian friends from that era, including Philemon Choi, David F. Laing, long-time head of Canada's space systems technological department (Department of Defense), and Dr. Eugene Chua, a leading cancer specialist in Singapore, and his wife Dixie.

Reta also corresponds with friends she made while travelling, and has sent hundreds of Christmas letters, using them to gently share the gospel. She loves God's Word, something she first learned from her pharmacist-father, Bob McRuer.
Reta also enjoys the beauty of friendship, and beauty in nature. For 10 years, her rose garden was the best in Winnipeg because, she believes, “He hath made everything beautiful in His time."

When she is asked her secret of longevity, Reta's responds, “I just know the Lord made me, He gave me the body I have, the mind I have and the talents I have. He still has something for me to do." She says none of her accomplishments, though she recalls them fondly, compare with “the opportunity to tell about the Lord and what He has done in my life and what He can do with others who present their lives to Him."

The banner on Reta's nursing home door reads, “Thou wilt show me the path of life. In thy presence is fullness of joy." Whether at a special birthday party or quietly writing a letter, Reta enjoys that path. As her friend Ruth Reid says, “She's 102 and still going strong for the Lord."

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail krempel@christianweek.org or call 1-800-263-6695.