Grandmother reflects on role of `Granny Smith'

Local woman is finalist in national competition

April 23, 2000|By Karen Keys | Karen Keys,SUN STAFF

Who's the apple of her eye? Nelda Ring wouldn't be able to choose just one.

There's her husband, Harry, her five children, her 17 grandchildren and her two great-grandchildren.

The Columbia resident was named a finalist in the "Search for Granny Smith," a national contest for the greatest grandmother sponsored by the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, Wash.

Ring, 71, whose grandchildren range in age from 4 to 25, says being a grandmother "means love and caring and sharing, as well as teaching and setting an example."

The contest judges sifted through 8,000 nominations letters and selected 100 semifinalists. Phone interviews narrowed the group to 15 finalists.

Ring and the 14 others will travel to Wenatchee next month for the "Granny Finale" during the state's Apple Blossom Festival.

"I'm glad I'm not a judge this year," said Kristin Malott, spokeswoman for the Washington Apple Commission.

Malott said the finale is like the Miss America competition, only for grandmothers. "But there's no talent portion and no swimsuit competition," she said.

The new "spokesgranny" will travel the country, making about 20 appearances on local television and radio talk shows and at supermarkets, demonstrating apple recipes, discussing apple varieties and talking about what it means to be a grandmother.

Ring enjoys traveling. She's been to Bermuda, Barbados, Israel, Ireland, Wales and Hawaii. The trip to Washington state will take her farther west than she's been in the continental United States.

And, she's ready if the judges quiz her about apples.

"Apples are my favorite," she said. Her specialties include apple pie, apple cheese torte, apple crisp and apple dumplings.

Ring was surprised to learn she had been named a finalist.

"I shook for two hours," she said. "I've never had an experience like this before. I've never made an effort to be in the limelight."

Her granddaughter Rebecca Alder, 22, of Arbutus submitted a poem, "Grandmothers Grow With You " with the nomination form.

The poem begins: "When I was a child she read to me, sang to me and let me stir the batter for her yummy desserts and cookies."

Alder's piece details how her grandmother taught her to be a lady in her teens and shared recipes when she was a bride. The poems ends: "My Grandmother has grown with me -- and I am proud to be her granddaughter."

Ring said her hobbies include cross-stitch, cooking and her grandchildren, "with a capital G."

She thinks her grandchildren -- who live in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania -- are terrific fun. When talking about her 18-year-old grandson, John Ring Jr., she said, "He always makes me laugh -- unless I'm lecturing him.

"Sometimes they'll tell you things they wouldn't tell their parents," she added.

"You spoil [them] and then give them back," said Ring's husband, Harry, 75, about being a grandparent.

The Columbia grandmother is stern, knowing and affectionate with her grandchildren.

"What have you been doing all week other than sleeping or talking on the phone?" she asked her 14-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer Ring.

The teen-ager giggled, confessing she'd spent eight hours an the telephone with a boy.

"Being a great-grandparent is a whole new ball game," Ring said. "I have to take a step back because my daughter is the grandmother now."

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