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She walks into her ninth decade
Spud 90 with sons
Alice Spud MacDonald stands proudly in front of her five sons at her recent 90th birthday celebration in Ripon. All long out of college and in their own professions are, from left, Blake, Scott, Tim, Robin and Morey. - photo by Photo Contributed

Ripon’s “Spud” MacDonald hasn’t missed a step in her 90 years, continuing every day to walk two to five miles throughout the community keeping herself in shape.

And that’s just how family and friends celebrated her recent birthday – walking with her around town before ending up at Stouffer Park for a noon luncheon celebration in her honor attended by some 90 family members and friends. 

The birthday march took those birthday hearalders north from her home to the downtown section of town and east to Stockton Avenue and back, circling the community and covering about two and a half miles before they reached the picnic area gazebo at Stouffer Park.

Alice “Spud” Dira was born in a booming copper town in Montana in 1924.  She picked up her nickname when she was just a little girl.

Spud lives in a modest residential area of the community in the heart of town and is seen walking to the store and then on for daily exercise just about every day.  She doesn’t have a car and uses her legs for her errands to the market and routinely to her doctor’s office.  Her home speaks quietly of family and is spotless in her care.

“With no car,  how would I get there if I didn’t walk,” she quipped of going to the store.

When her shopping list is just too long to carry the groceries, neighbors across the street – Joe and Joan Azevedo – are there to give her a ride.  In fact, it is the retired Azevedos who make sure she has a ride to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on East Highway 120 every Sunday morning where she has long been a faithful member.

She warmly recalls her late husband Barney who had been a respected teacher at Ripon High School before his death some 13 years ago, referring to him early on as her sweetheart. Barney taught just about everything from English, math and science to coaching football and basketball. They had been married in 1946 and moved from Anaconda, Montana to Ripon in 1964 because of the snow. 

She quipped that she had never worked “because I had six boys to raise.” She did hold down a couple part-time jobs that allowed her to get better acquainted with her new community.  One was at the Ripon Record and the other was being a hostess at the Franzia Winery Tasting Room on Highway 120 that has since been shuttered. 

Her boys, who live all over the country, were quick to note that she has always been an avid Ripon High School football supporter and for decades was the most vocal one in the stands.  The five of them all traveled to Ripon with their families to celebrate her 90 years and especially to walk through the town with their mom in the lead.

Son Tim traveled the farthest for the weekend for her birthday from Virginia where he retired as a high school English Literature instructor.  Morey is the head of the School of Family Studies at Kansas State College living in Manhattan, KS. Scott drove up from Modesto where he is the senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. Blake who lives in Knights Ferry is employed as an engineer at the Sandia Lab over the Altamont.  Robin is retired as sales manager for Parker Racor and works in a filtration business.

Son Tom died at the age of 43 in 1993. He had worked as a printer for Pika-Type Printing in Ripon.

Spud has long been admired by her friends as being a fantastic bridge player, bowler, afghan knitter and slot player as well as being a jigsaw and crossword puzzle enthusiast, and most importantly their friend. 

She is lovingly called “Grandma Spud” by 18 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Following the birthday bash, son Robin note, “She’s a Ripon treasure now!”