MPS volunteer Ruth Knelman has three grandchildren of her own but is affectionately known as “grandma” to hundreds of students and staff members at Jefferson Community School.
Grandma Ruth has spent 32 years as a volunteer in Jefferson’s kindergarten classrooms. Currently she works alongside teacher Kim Wesley.
“I’m always anxious to be here,” said Ruth. “I am here to help Kim any way I can. I love it because Kim gives me authority and the kindergarteners respect me.”
Grandma Ruth was born in New York on May 21, 1910, and moved to Minneapolis from North Dakota 61 years ago. She decided to put her energies into volunteering to do some good in the community. Every Tuesday, she arrives at Jefferson – walking to the school if weather permits – at around 12:30 p.m. and stays until 4:30 or later.
“After all these years, I do consider myself a teacher,” she said. “I would love to give even more time at the school, but I’m so busy.”
In addition to her regular service at Jefferson, Ruth volunteers at her local temple, a neighborhood nursery school and a local hospital. She also teaches cooking classes, plays in her bridge club, enjoys trying out new local restaurants and spends time visiting friends here in the Twin Cities and across the country.
With her 105th birthday approaching in May, Grandma Ruth shared a few secrets to longevity. She said you have to be happy in your job, take care of your body and try to remain as stress-free as possible. She also credited her longevity to never learning how to drive. Ruth noted that she doesn’t spend much time in front of the television during the day, although she enjoys watching “Dancing with the Stars” in the evening.
Grandma Ruth would like to live forever, although she knows it’s impossible. A piece of her legacy lives on in every child she mentors, supports and encourages.