Super Senior: Maggie Rutledge

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 12:40 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - At her home in South Burlington, 89-year-old Maggie Rutledge has time to reminisce.

A collection of music boxes fill her shelves. “I had 120 at one time,” Rutledge said, picking up one from her native Nebraska. Unlike Vermont, it was a state with a seemingly endless horizon. “We used to laugh and say, ‘you could see two weeks on a clear day.’”

“That’s my family,” Rutledge said, pointing to a photograph that includes her in the top left with a carefree smile.

She adored her dad, who when she almost died from pneumonia at the age of two, stayed and took care of her. “My dad stayed up all night and kept a little kerosene heater going with a tea kettle on it,” Rutledge said. The steam from the kettle helped her clear her lungs. “I was his girl after that.”

Daddy’s girl became a young woman and at 17 got married. “I didn’t go for the last half of my senior year because they wouldn’t let me go to school after I was married,” Rutledge said.

She and her husband moved to California and had two girls, but the marriage didn’t last. She says she has one regret.

Reporter Joe Carroll: You wanted to be a school teacher?

Maggie Rutledge: Yeah, yeah.

Reporter Joe Carroll: What happened?

Maggie Rutledge: Well, I didn’t go the last half of my senior year.

However, she found her calling much later in life that did bring her into the classroom. “I’ve been a foster grandparent for 13 years. But I wish I had known about it 10 years before that, I would have gone into it then,” Rutledge said.

“I love Maggie. Maggie is a force of nature,” said Ellen Biddle, who runs the Foster Grandparent program for the United Way of Northwest Vermont. She just lights up, and the children when she walks into the room can’t get to her fast enough. They just adore her."

The schools and day care centers are back open in Vermont, but because of COVID health concerns, the foster grandparents are still in limbo. “Unpredictable, hard to know where we’re heading,” Biddle said. She says they will keep Maggie and others out of the classroom at least until early next year.

“I’m ready to get back to work, I miss the kids,” Rutledge said.

In the meantime, “Grammie” is keeping busy knitting for her friends and the children she adores. “I wanted to send you something special, but how in the world do you send a hug?” Rutledge said. “But it’s something to do when I have to stay home here.”

For now, it’s a waiting game until when she’ll be back with the kids. “I love 'em,” Rutledge said.

Unlike the fleeting music from one of her music boxes, Rutledge is not winding down.

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