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On 111th birthday Minneapolis resident credits longevity to ‘thinking happy’ – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: May 25, 2021 at 1:54 am


The years just keep rolling by for supercentenarian Ruth Knelman, a self-described "perpetual volunteer" and positive thinker who on Friday celebrated her 111th birthday.

Knelman, a longtime Minneapolis resident, attributes her long life to avoiding stress, "thinking happy" and staying busy with friends.

"They say if you have one friend, you're lucky," she said. "Well, I have tons."

Knelman is among the oldest Minnesotans, though Erna Zahn, 113, of New Ulm, Minn., has her beat.

Knelman spent Friday with her grandson, Joey Knelman, who was visiting from California. She said she planned to have dinner with family and friends and watch services at Temple Israel, where she is a member, over Zoom, and then go out to eat on Saturday.

"Minneapolis has been her community for a long time," Joey Knelman said. "She's very connected."

Knelman's great-nephew John Gelmon, of Toronto, said Knelman's mother also lived a long life into her late 90s.

"She does have really great genes," Gelmon said of his great-aunt.

Gelmon remembered visiting for her 108th birthday, when she had stayed up all night to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Instead of sleeping in, he said, she whipped up a brunch of fried matzoh.

Ruth, one of three children, was born in 1910 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father worked in the fur business, she said.

After marrying, she eventually moved to Minneapolis with her husband, Ed Knelman, a traveling salesman. She has one son, Kip Knelman of Edina "and he's very, very good to me," she said.

Things have changed a lot over the course of Ruth Knelman's life, she said. Children today are "more spoiled" and parents "want their children to be friends," she said.

Knelman also said she's astounded by the price of everyday items in 2021. "It's just unbelievable," she said, "because I remember when a stamp was 3 cents."

When Knelman was younger, she said, women didn't attend university, so she made a career of volunteering. She's volunteered at a long list of places, including the Temple Israel early childhood center and Jefferson Community School, though she stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the early childhood center, where she's known as "Grandma Ruth," she has read to children, helped with lunches and taught cooking classes for kids and adults over the years, said Senior Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman.

Knelman's service spans three decades, Zimmerman said, adding that Ruth once read to her own daughter, now in her 30s.

"[Ruth] gets to be friends with all the moms," Zimmerman said. "Her friends keep getting younger, so she feels like she's getting younger."

Knelman, Temple Israel's oldest member, is in the sanctuary for services every Friday night without fail, Zimmerman said. During the pandemic, she has faithfully tuned in over Zoom.

Zimmerman described Knelman as a busy woman with strong opinions who doesn't like talking about herself. "She just likes living," Zimmerman said.

Knelman likes to tell people she does everything wrong that she doesn't drink enough water or eat well, and enjoys alcohol now and then, Zimmerman said.

"She likes her cocktails, let's put it that way," Zimmerman said with a laugh.

Still, Zimmerman said Knelman defies every medical prediction.

"She says she wants to live forever," Zimmerman said, "and if anyone can, I'll put my money on Ruth Knelman."

Erin Adler 612-673-1781

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On 111th birthday Minneapolis resident credits longevity to 'thinking happy' - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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