COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Soon-to-be 100-year-old Betty Rutz (right) shares a special waltz with line dancing instructor Richard Leeth (left) during a Friday class at the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging’s Rivers Enrichment Center in celebration of Rutz’s upcoming 100th birthday this Saturday.

Local woman dances her way to 100

Credits movement with getting to centenarian status

THREE RIVERS — Every week, Betty Rutz participates in line dancing classes at the Commission on Aging’s Rivers Enrichment Center in Three Rivers.

During these classes, seniors get exercise in by doing line-dancing routines to different songs in a variety of styles. Depending on the style of music, it can be slow or relatively fast-paced, with instructions on how to do particular moves prior to he song playing.

Friday’s class had a special twist at the end, though. Following a dance exercise near the end of the class, the instructor, Richard Leeth, called up Rutz for a special dance with just him and her to celebrate a special occasion.

That occasion? Rutz’s 100th birthday.

The two of them waltzed to Alan Jackson’s 1990 song “I’d Love You All Over Again,” smiling the whole time, with Rutz’s smile just a little bit bigger. Almost everyone in the class grabbed their phones to take video of the occasion, happy for her that she got the opportunity to do something special in a class that she has enjoyed for a while.

Rutz said after the class she was surprised by the special dance, but not surprised by the song choice for it.

“That was my favorite waltz, and that’s why they did it,” Rutz said.

In addition to the special dance, the activity room at the center had a table filled with cupcakes and other sweets to celebrate Rutz’s milestone, one that only a handful of people may be able to reach in their lifetime.

Rutz is soon to be the latest one in St. Joseph County to reach that centenarian status on July 23.

Rutz was born in 1922 and grew up in Benton Harbor, Mich., where she graduated high school. She said high school life at the time was different than it is nowadays, saying today high school classes were “much bigger” than they were back then.

She moved to Three Rivers after high school, and worked for Continental Can Company for a number of years with their office staff.

“I worked there until I could retire,” Rutz said.

In addition to her work at Continental Can, Rutz noted she helped out with the county’s Commission on Aging for a while.

Rutz was also happily married for 70 years, with two kids, two grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She bragged that she is the “cool grandma” to her grandchildren.

Growing up, Rutz said she took ballet classes, then moving up to toe dancing and ballroom dancing, which fostered her love of dance. She said that was one reason why she said she enjoys the line dancing class.

“I’ve danced all my life one way or another,” Rutz said.

Her love of dance and music may just have influenced what she believes is the secret to old age.

“Keep on moving,” Rutz said. “Just keep on moving.”

Overall, Rutz said it was “super” to reach the 100-year-old mark, noting the friendships she’s made with the line dancing class have helped keep her young at heart.

“It’s just so nice to have so many friends that are so very great,” Rutz said.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or

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