By Joe Stumpe
The ages of the seven children in the Bennett family are easy to remember: 76, 78, 80, 82, 84, 86 and 88.
That kind of familial longevity may not qualify as a record, but as third-oldest daughter Ruby Tobey says: “We think we are little unusual and very blessed to have seven siblings still living.”
The Bennett siblings grew up in Milton, Kan., about 30 miles southwest of Wichita in Sumner County.
Their father, Lee, worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. Their mother, Edith, had her hands full at home — obviously. Edith had grown up on a farm before marriage.
“We always laughed about her feeling bad because she was going to have to raise her kids in town, and it was town of 85 or 90 people,” Tobey said. “It’s so funny to us now.”
Ruth doubts whether her parents set out to raise such a big family, since they married relatively late in life for their time. After her birth, Tobey said, they “finally” had a boy — then two more girls and a second boy.
She said the small town with its high school of about 20 students was a great place to grow up.
“Oh yes. I had lunch yesterday with four of the girls I went to high school with back then. That small of a school, you knew everybody.”
One of her sisters was part of the last Milton senior class before the school was consolidated in 1960.
After high school, Tobey took a job with the Kansas State Bank in Wichita. A few years later, she moved on to the advertising department of the Wichita Beacon. Not long after, she met and married her husband, Joe, who retired after 42 years with the Beacon and Wichita Eagle. They celebrated their 64th anniversary in January.
Her siblings moved away from Milton as well, although four now live in south-central Kansas. Ruth’s oldest sister recently moved back to Kansas after living out west for years. All but one sibling celebrated their most recent reunion in Valley Center, with great and great-grandchildren present.
Asked to speculate on a cause for her family’s longevity, Tobey said: “I could say it’s getting to the point where knee replacements and so forth are keeping us going. Maybe growing up outdoors — sort of in the country. Just probably what we inherited.”
Their reunions bring back fond memories.
“We all have pretty much have similar values and similar tastes. When we do get together, we think of foods that mom used to cook that we liked,” she said, listing “meatballs, fried chicken and a particular salad with orange Jell-o and grated carrots and pineapple.”