SAN FRANCISCO – Ruth Newman, thought to be one of two remaining survivors of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 that shook the city and the surrounding area, has died. She was 113.
Newman was 5 years old when the quake struck, shaking her home in a Healdsburg ranch about 70 miles north of San Francisco the early morning of April 18, 1906.
"She remembered being downstairs and her father picking her up and running out of the house," said Newman's daughter, Beverly Dobbs of Fair Oaks.
The family remained on the ranch, where she grew up, because the house wasn't damaged, Dobbs said.
"She would tell us she remembered my grandmother being upset because they had just milked the cow earlier and she had separated the cream and all and put it in containers that got thrown to the floor," Dobbs, 85, said.
Newman passed away July 29 at her home in Pebble Beach, California, the coastal town where she and her late husband moved to after living in Pacific Grove, Dobbs said.
Her death leaves only one known earthquake survivor still living. William Del Monte, 109, was 3-months-old when the earthquake hit, said Lee Housekeeper, an organizer of the quake's commemoration events.
More than 1,000 people were killed in the earthquake and fires. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, measurements of the 1906 quake have ranged from magnitude 7.7 to 8.3.
One of five children, Newman was a strong willed woman — she drove and played golf until her mid-90's — who always kept busy knitting, gardening and baking. She also had an active social life and enjoyed great health throughout her life, which her daughter attributes to her "joie de vivre."
Newman and her late husband met at a dance and after marrying they continued to go out dancing, even joining a dancing club in Sacramento, where they raised two children. The couple also loved to entertain, Dobbs said.
"She was one who couldn't sit down," Dobbs said. "She was a beautiful knitter and a fantastic seamstress. They both loved to dress well. She made all her gowns to go dancing and most of my clothes when I was young."
Dobbs said her parents would have a scotch with water every night before bed, a habit that could have helped her longevity. Though genes may have helped too. Two of Newman's siblings were also centenarians. Her older brother Barney Barnard lived to be 108 and their younger sister Genevieve Gully died at 103.
Newman never attended the annual earthquake commemorations events, which include gathering at Lotta's Fountain at Market and Kearny streets in downtown San Francisco before dawn, because she preferred to sleep in rather than wake up early for them, Dobbs said.