Her love of music started when she took her first piano lesson at the ripe old age of six.
That was in 1922.
“No matter how long you’re here, there’s something to learn,” said Ruthie Swim, who turned 100-years-old in mid-June. “The number you put on yourself is not important. It’s how you feel about yourself, about life and about many things.”
Ruthie Swim still loves music and she’s added a passion: Argentine Tango dancing.
Every Tuesday night, Swim joins her friends for hours of dancing at the Gulfport Casino.
“I’ve known her for about 30 years,” said Dori Griffith, who also dances at the Gulfport Casino on Tuesday nights. ‘We would just awe at her at 70. She’s inspirational for sure for the rest of us.”
On this night, her favorite dance partner, Dr. Steven Moss, is visiting from Argentina and smoothly escorts her around the dance floor to the rhythm of the peppy music.
“We were dancing at Continental Ball Room and Ruthie catches my eye and she asks me to dance,” he explains as they glide stride for stride. “I’ve been hooked on tango ever since.”
That was back when Ruthie first learned the dance. She was 97 then.
Dressed in not-too-high heels, on this night, men line up to dance with Ruthie. It’s a celebration of her 100th birthday and everyone wants a turn to spin around the floor with Gulfport’s most famous feet.
“Ruthie is living proof that you’re never too old to stay connected to the world around you,” said Dean Knoblach, a doctor who helped Ruthie get fitted with hearing aids to regain her hearing after it started fading a few years ago.
It’s not as easy as it used to be but Ruthie can’t give up dancing.
“I know that I’m not going to live forever and I’m ready to go anytime they want me upstairs but they haven’t sent me an invitation yet so I think I’m still supposed to dance,” she said with a smile.
“You have to stay active,” she says. “You have to keep your body moving because if you sit down on the couch with a big bag of chips and something to nibble on and just relax and put on a little extra weight, pretty soon your legs say I don’t feel like getting up to dance. Push yourself and keep active and that’s what will keep you young.”
In both 2014 and 2015, for a month each time, Ruthie made trips to see Moss in Buenos Aires. She got instruction from some of the top tango dancers in the world. She plans to go back in the summer of 2017, at the ripe young age of 101, to complete in the tango World Cup.
“I didn’t have any idea that she was 100,” Gina Santamaria said while watching Ruthie prance.” “No, she doesn’t look it at all.”
“She has this charismatic personality,” said Griffith. “People are just drawn to her.
“I mean, she does tango of all dances.”