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Volunteers work 90 to nothing

If you ever wake up in the morning feeling like you don’t have the energy to get out of bed and face the day, you might want to remember two nonagenarians who, despite their advanced age, still serve as volunteers at the Farmington OAKS Senior Center.

Marie Gibbs, 95, and Jean Rubottom, 99, have a lot in common. Both are in great physical shape, sharp as a tack and still active. Both love volunteering at the senior center and both share the same birthday — Feb. 13.

Marie Gibbs, left, and Jean Rubottom blow out the candles on the birthday cake they shared at their party held Friday at the Farmington Senior Center. Both ladies were born on Feb. 13 — Gibbs in 1923 and Rubottom in 1919.

Marie Gibbs, left, and Jean Rubottom blow out the candles on the birthday cake they shared at their party held Friday at the Farmington Senior Center. Both ladies were born on Feb. 13 — Gibbs in 1923 and Rubottom in 1919.

“Marie sits at that one table — it’s the First Baptist table,” said Mona Yates, long-time senior center administrator. “One of the ladies said, ‘It’s her birthday, but she doesn’t want a fuss made over her, but we want to do something on a different day so she’s not expecting anything.’ I said, ‘Well Jean’s birthday is the same day.'”

On Feb. 16 the senior center held a surprise birthday party, complete with a decorated cake and beautiful bouquets of flowers for both ladies.

Marie Gibbs, left, and Jean Rubottom hold bouquets of flowers given to them last week in recognition of their birthdays.

Marie Gibbs, left, and Jean Rubottom hold bouquets of flowers given to them last week in recognition of their birthdays.

Following the celebration, Gibbs and Rubottom shared a little bit about themselves.

“I’ve been in Farmington 35 years,” Gibbs said. “I moved here because of a job. I’ve been coming to the senior center 25 years off and on. Of course, I worked a lot of that time — but the in-between times. I got started here at the senior center because I know Mona so well and they always needed help. I was glad to help.”

Yates said, “I had some extras on our home delivery route that didn’t fit in anywhere and Marie said, ‘Well, I can take those for you,’ because it’s just five stops and they’re couples. She does that every day — she does that Monday through Friday. She’s been doing it since she quit her job at the high school in October 2016.

“Marie worked there for 25 years after she retired from Missouri Natural Gas. Throughout all of those years that she’s been retired, she has delivered meals for me. She has helped me in any way that she can. She’s one of my biggest champions. She’s always after everyone saying, ‘You need to see Mona. She needs help. You need to see if you can help her in some way.”

Next, Jean Rubottom had her turn.

“I was born in Nebraska,” she said. “I ended up in Missouri because my daughter lives here and she’s the only one I have in the family, so I came here to be with her, so she could take care of me.

“About 10 years ago, Jean’s daughter came in and said, ‘My mother has recently moved to the area and I think she would enjoy volunteering here,'” Yates said. “I told her what we do and she said, ‘Well, she would enjoy delivering meals.’ In the course of the conversation she said, ‘Oh, by the way — she’s 89.’ I’m going, ‘OK, we’ll see how this goes.’ Then she came in to meet me and I thought, ‘This person cannot be 89 years old!’

“She started delivering meals for me until the doctor told her she really needed to stop because bending over and reaching in the car to get the meals was causing her some back pain. She was a little upset about having to quit delivering meals, so I said, ‘Well, you can help in the kitchen if you want to,’ because she has worked in commercial kitchens throughout her life — worked in restaurants, at country clubs and places like that. So, she started helping on Friday packing the meals to go out and serving people on the lunch line.”

Asked if she enjoyed her volunteer work at the center, Rubottom said, “Oh, very much or I wouldn’t be doing it! I like the people and it’s just fun.”

Despite turning 99 years old, she’s still driving, but laughing, Rubottom said, “Not any more than I have to.”

Administrator Yates thinks she’s lucky to have such faithful volunteers working along her side.

“They’re both amazing ladies and I’m glad they’re here at the center,” Yates said. “I mean, how many senior centers have two 90-something-plus-year-old people still volunteering for them on a regular basis?”

“…how many senior centers have two 90-something-plus-year-old people still volunteering for them on a regular basis?” Farmington OAKS Senior Center Director Mona Yates, on volunteers Marie Gibbs and Jean Rubottom

Marie Gibbs, 95, left, and Jean Rubottom, 99, celebrate their birthday last week at the Farmington OAKS Senior Center. Both ladies are still active volunteers at the center. Gibbs delivers meals to the homebound and Rubottom works in the kitchen.

Marie Gibbs, 95, left, and Jean Rubottom, 99, celebrate their birthday last week at the Farmington OAKS Senior Center. Both ladies are still active volunteers at the center. Gibbs delivers meals to the homebound and Rubottom works in the kitchen.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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