CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,
Oct. 21, 2005 – Southeast Missouri State University will recognize alumna Ella Ruth Fletcher Aufranc, a member of the Class of 1930, as parade dignitary at the University’s Homecoming 2005 parade Oct. 29.
“Matriculating in 1926, whoever would have thought that Ella Ruth Fletcher would be the parade dignitary 80 years later?” Aufranc wonders aloud. “I have been so proud ever since the moment I found out I was to be that honored, and I’m still excited about it. I’ve just been living on excitement.”
Choosing Aufranc as the parade dignitary was an easy choice, according to Jane Stacy, director of alumni services and development.
“Ella Ruth has always been very active in the Alumni Association,” Stacy said. “At the age of 96, she is one of the most active members of that era. It seemed fitting that a member of the class of 1926 would lead the parade of years.”
This year’s parade, which is being sponsored by the Southeast Bookstore, will feature a “Parade of Years,” featuring members from every graduating class of Southeast, with many floats dedicated to entire decades of Southeast alumni.
“After we developed a Kansas City chapter around 30 years ago, Ella Ruth was always there,” Stacy said. “She always had her hand out when we asked for help, and she always loved the University. When I asked her to be parade dignitary, she said, ‘This is the highlight of my life.’”
While she calls herself the “scrawniest” of the nine children in her Sikeston family, Aufranc is in top physical shape. At the young age of 96, she takes no medicine and walks every day, similar to the walks she made to school as a college student at Southeast.
“I graduated from high school in May, and started college in June,” Aufranc says. “They found a place for me to live on Bellevue street with a nice couple, and I worked for my room and board. I walked to school every day and took my lunch. Back then, there were only a handful of buildings at Southeast. There were only about 500 people on the entire campus and I knew just about every one of them.”
What many students now know as Kent Library was actually named after Aufranc’s librarian, Sadie Kent.
“Oh, yes, Sadie Kent,” she recalls. “I was thinking of her just the other day. I loved the library. It was one of my favorite places. I had such a good time at Southeast. I have lots of wonderful memories of eating lunch with my friends every day and having fun.”
Aufranc enjoyed the cultural side of Southeast as well.
“I went to my very first symphony here as a guest of my sister,” she says. “We saw the St. Louis Symphony, and I was so enthralled that I’ve been listening to symphonies ever since. I have classical music on the radio all the time.”After attending Southeast as an education major, Aufranc went on to teach elementary and junior high school for five years at several area schools.
“My middle name is ‘go,’” she says lightheartedly. “If anyone ever wants to do anything, I’m ready to do it. Kids still think I’m 16 because I’m so active.”
Aufranc has always been active. After moving to California, she traveled the globe for about 16 years, everywhere from England, Scotland, Wales, and the Panama Canal to the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska. She once flew to London alone to meet her stepdaughter and had her picture taken with Faberge, who shares her birthday.
While Aufranc has a love for travel, she too felt the homesickness that many new college students face, and was prepared to make a journey home after the first few weeks of school.
“I was in my knickers, and my sister asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I told her I was going home that weekend. There were no buses, no trains, nothing to get me there, and it was about 30 or 40 miles to get home. I told her I was homesick and I wanted to go home, so I was hitchhiking. She was afraid for me, and decided to come along too. She put her knickers on also, and, sure enough, the first car we waved at stopped and told us they were going to Sikeston too. When we got there, we called dad to come get us, and he was just as happy to see us as we were to see him.”
Family is very important to Aufranc, and is the reason for her move from California back to Kansas City, Mo. She has two children, Mona Randolph and Richard Fletcher Halliburton. She has two grandchildren in Kansas City, Mo., and four in California. She currently lives in a retirement center in Kansas City and enjoys watching her grandchildren mature. They are now college-aged, she says.
Aufranc is active in several organizations, including her church and the P.E.O., a philanthropic organization. She volunteers for Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and what she does most and best, she says, is the March of Dimes. Aufranc says she is one of Kansas City’s top walkers for the March of Dimes, and she receives a plaque for collecting money every year.
As for hobbies, Aufranc enjoys Scrabble more than any other game. She was recently elected Neighbor of the Month at the retirement center where she has lived for 16 years, and helps get new people oriented and visits with them.
All of Aufranc’s travels and adventures have made her the person she is today, and she is not quick to forget any of them. Her quick wit and sharp memory make her a favorite among those she’s around, and she remains thankful for what she has received during her lifetime.
“I think that I am living on memories. I count my blessings every day,” she says. “I want to give out a piece of advice that is good for anyone, young or old. ‘Focus on the one who loves you in more ways than your remaining days.’ That’s God, because you don’t know how long you’ll be here.”
While she is here, Aufranc has made sure the time is well-spent.