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Sorority and family celebrate long-time community member's 100th birthday

Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 10:41:06-04

OMAHA, NEB. (KMTV) -  — Ruth Thomas' 100th birthday will be a celebration she'll always remember.

Members of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. gathered outside of her home Saturday afternoon in celebration of the milestone.

"Ruth means a lot to our chapter," Omaha Graduate Chapter President Shereece Dendy-Sanders said. "She has been an active member for more than 75 years, we call her our diamond, she means more to us than words could ever express."

Ruth's children and grandchildren were also there.

"It just warmed my heart and my soul,"Ruth's Granddaughter Lisa Billingsley said. "It was so nice just to see the smile and the joy it brought to my grandmother, she loves her sorority and it was just a blessing to see how much they love her back."

"We're so happy that she's celebrating her 100 years," Ruth's daughter Janet Thomas-Caston said. "I'm her oldest and I'm happy to see that."

It's not quite the celebration friends and family had in mind.

They'd been planning for a big party at a community center in North Omaha, but due to social distancing guidelines from the state, family and friends wished Ruth a happy birthday from her front yard.

They decorated signs with her sorority colors, pink and green, along with balloons.

"We're walking around with masks on and social distancing," Ruth's daughter Judith Alexander said. "[We] can't hug her, can't kiss her, have to put a mask on when I give her her eye drops and everything ... but she can feel the love."

However, Ruth's sorority sisters and family made sure the day was special.

"Although COVID-19 has changed our current way of living we want to make sure that we can still do what we can to honor those during this pandemic,"Dendy-Sanders siad.

Ruth's impact on the North Omaha community spans several decades.

She advocated for the employment of African Americans and also served as the director of the North Omaha YMCA.

"She was on the board of directors of the Charles Drew Health Center," Ruth's son James Thomas Sr. said. "[It's] very necessary to bring health to our community and that's one of the many things she's done that's really made a difference in health care."

Ruth also spent several years advocating for civil right in the community, was a leader in her sorority bringing in many members and also served on the Omaha Public School board.

"She's been a pillar for the community, she's worked in so many capacities, helped many people and just been a blessing over a all," Ruth's daughter Janet
Thomas-Caston said.

Sorority sisters say Ruth leads by example and is someone they all look up to.

"She's my hero, she has done so much for this family, for the community and I am just so happy for her and so proud of her," Alexander said.

Sorority sisters from around the country sent Ruth more than 75 birthday cards to open, giving her many reminders about how truly loved she is.

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