Ensuring a Brighter Future

Ruth Hurlburt

Y Ladies Keep One Another Strong, In Mind, Body


What started as six ladies playing cards at the Y every Friday morning evolved into a group of more than 50 women who not only enjoy card games, but also exercise, eat lunch, take trips, and support one another in tough times.


Essentially, the Y Ladies, as they call themselves, have created a strong community of senior women, ranging in age from 55 to 85. Ruth Hurlburt, a retired Onalaska Middle School teacher, is one of the original members of this tight-knit group. It started about four years ago with a half dozen friends who participated in the Friday morning water aerobics class at the Y North Branch and then played cards together.


Other women began to ask the group if they could join. The Y Ladies enthusiastically welcome everyone. Their minds stay sharp as they strategize for triple play and other cards games. Yet it’s mainly about socializing, not winning at cards, as the members “talk, talk, talk,” Ruth says. “It’s amazing that 50 to 60 women get together and get along so well. There are disagreements, but no hard feelings ever.”


The Y staff supports the ladies playing cards on Fridays. Staff sets up a comfortable room and keeps their coffee cups filled as chatter and cards fly across tables. In addition, the group meets on third Mondays to honor the Y Ladies with birthdays that month. They also dine at local restaurants, and of course, play cards after lunch. Many of the women are widows and/or don’t have a lot of family in the area. They celebrate together and take care of one another, visiting each other at home or in the hospital

when illness hits, or at the very least, sending a get well card.


Ruth can be found with friends at the Y on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for water aerobics or deep water jogging. While she loves water exercise, she knows many other Y Ladies enjoy classes together such as Zumba and strength training. “There is so much going on here,” Ruth says. “There is something for everyone, including seniors and those with disabilities.”


Ruth also is active at the Y as a Strong Kids Campaigner. It’s wonderful for the community to learn about Strong Kids, which provides scholarships to children whose families may not otherwise afford memberships, she says. As a teacher for 34 years, Ruth knows first-hand how important it is to keep kids – and their families - physically active. She’s impressed with the Prime Time Center and the Drop-In Child Watch, where children play supervised, while their parents exercise. One year a special campaign supported the development of the Miracle Field. She enjoyed playing a small role in that incredible project that gives children with disabilities the chance to play baseball.


Ruth and her husband, Wes, have been married 44 years. She’s 68 years old with one adult daughter and a young grandson. The Y Ladies has given her a new perspective on aging. “I used to think that when you turned 80 that you were ‘done for.’ I

know now that is not true,” Ruth says. “You can be active for a long, long time.”


By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2011