Ruthie Tompson, a longtime Disney animation supervisor and now the oldest resident at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Country House and Hospital, turns 110 in COVID-19 quarantine this Wednesday.
She’s celebrating her birthday by raising $110,000 in support of a postproduction suite at the Woodland Hills campus’ in-house television and video facility, where she and other retirees have spent countless hours pursuing their crafts.
The MPTF facility hasn’t reported a COVID-19-positive resident for three and a half months. Since the crisis began, 17 residents have fallen ill and six have died of complications from the virus. 19 campus staff members have been sickened, all of whom have recovered.
Tompson’s first pandemic was the 1918 Spanish Flu but she doesn’t remember much.
“I was young at the time”.
She wore a mask, among crowds of others doing the same, during celebrations that marked the end of World War I.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tompson was
Born in 1910 in Portland, Maine, Tompson moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was 8. They took up residence down the street from Walt and Roy Disney, who were then beginning their namesake studio out of their uncle’s garage. Tompson recalls sitting on an apple box beside them until she’d be told to go home for dinner. Years later, she was hired, a pioneering woman at the company and in her field.
She first joined the Ink and Paint Department. During the next four decades, Tompson worked in various capacities, including reviewing animation cels before they were filmed and scene planning on films such as Fantasia, Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty and Mary Poppins.
Asked about the secret to her longevity, Tompson jokes,
“It’s because I’m a vampire!
How can I tell you my secret, because then it won’t be a secret!
I’m a dummy for living this long!”
But then turns serious.
“I don’t know why I am still here, but I know that I don’t want to be revered for how old I am, I want to be known for who I am.”
Any wisdom too impart?
“Have fun. Try to do as much as you can for yourself. Remember all the good things in life.”
Tompson has been keeping busy during lockdown with her job at a nursing station, where she answers phones.
“The problem is, I can’t always hear what the person on the other end says.
Then I tool around in my electric wheelchair and visit my neighbors here — sometimes the staff reminds me to ‘distance, distance!'”
Her favorite Disney film is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!”
When the lockdown ends, she’s hoping to pay a visit to Disney — not the amusement park in Anaheim, but the studio in Burbank — and to enjoy her favorite baseball team.
“I can’t wait to watch my Dodgers and eat a Dodger dog.”
Tompson is also looking forward to a future when she can embrace family, friends and staff again on-campus. She’s expecting a visit from loved ones on her birthday, allowed under a compassionate care exemption.
MPTF staff will be decorating the hallway near Tompson’s residence for her birthday with Disney and Dodgers memorabilia, as well as donning the team’s gear. You can donate to Ruthie’s drive to raise $110K here.
Check out Whoopie’s birthday message to Ruthie…
(Photo, Disney; via THR)