'It’s tough': Family celebrating 101-year-old's birthday differently due to COVID-19 concerns

Governor's order bans nursing home visits
Posted at 12:00 AM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 19:09:59-04

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HARRISON, Ohio — Ruth Elliott is set to celebrate her 101st birthday on Saturday, but her centennial-plus-one party won’t go quite as planned.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine handed down new restrictions on nursing homes this week in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus to older people.

For Elliott, who lives in Harrison's Shawnee Springs Nursing Home, that means she won’t be able to touch or be in the same room as her loved ones on her birthday.

“Here we are at 101. It’s just a tough pill to swallow on both ends,” said Ruth's nephew Don Neumeister.

The birthday party won’t be like what the family originally had in mind, but they know the resilient 100-year-old will be wearing red and will be ready to party when the right time comes.

“She was so looking forward to tomorrow," said Neumeister. "When I left, I said 'I’ll see you next Saturday.' I’ll see her. But it’s not in the same arrangement that I’d like to.”

Born in 1919 and married to a World War II veteran, Ruth's family knows her as a strong matriarch.

“She raised six kids pretty much on her own. He went to work, she stayed at the house. Grass cutting. Very strong person," said Joann Kirchgessner, Ruth's daughter.

To celebrate her milestone birthday, the family wanted to get her out of Shawnee for the day and have a party with family.

“At the last minute we had to change everything because of what’s going on," said Kirchgessner.

Instead, this year's birthday party will be different, but just as festive. They plan to take cake, balloons and gifts to Ruth at Shawnee.

“It would be wonderful if she could be in that lobby to see her family there tomorrow," said Neumeister. "It’s tough. The whole situation that we’re dealing with is understanding.”

But like the 100-year-old told her nephew, there will be plenty more birthdays to celebrate.

"'To hell with 101. I’m going to 110.' And I’m like, we’ll be there to support you," Neumeister said.

To learn more about the temporary ban on nursing home visits, click here.