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Publication: Times&Transcript, Moncton, NB
Issue: 19 January 2010
Title: Briarlea resident marks 100th birthday
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When 100-year-old Ralph Northrup of Moncton began working as a mechanic many years ago, auto repair was a lot less expensive.
For example, a standard automobile motor job cost "very little" compared to what it would today, and a mechanic's hourly rate was "75 cents to a dollar an hour."
Wages were also much less then, of course, and Ralph found that out at an early age. The second youngest child of eight, four boys and four girls, born to Allen and Luella (Gibbon) Northrup of Belleisle Station, Kings County, his Dad was killed by a train when Ralph was just two years old.
At 11 years of age, Ralph went to work part-time on a farm and also in a cheese factory. At 15 he went to work full-time, at the cheese factory during the summer and cooking at a lumber camp during the winter. He did the latter for four years, eventually moving on to take a job at Swift Canadian in Moncton for eight years. Working as a mechanic, he then became employed at the Golden Ball garage in Saint John.
"I was there when war broke out," he explains. "I took over the Golden Ball in '39 and they sent me over to a garage in Halifax."
In 1941, Ralph relocated to Amherst where he was in charge of the motor department at the aircraft plant there. Eventually returning to the hub city, he worked as a mechanic in Lounsbury's Garage, still keeping his eye open for a good opportunity.
"In '46, Norman Dryden and I opened up Dryden Motors," Ralph recalls. "I was there for 13 years as shop foreman. Then I bought my little farm on Shediac Road and built my own garage, Ralph's Auto Repair." He was still working in his garage at 91, and "didn't really retire." He still hasn't. He's regularly contacted by people who ask where they should take their cars to be fixed. Eighteen years ago, Ralph lost his wife Roberta (Hicks). The couple raised six children: Ralph Jr., Elizabeth (Betty), Robert, Richard (deceased), Gracie and Ronnie.
There are now five generations in Ralph's family as he also has grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren.
Aside from trips to the west and visits to family in the U.S. by Ralph and Roberta, and ball and hockey team activity in Harrisville, Ralph didn't have hobbies.
"I didn't have time for anything," he says simply. "I was too busy working all the time."
Now a resident of The Briarlea in Moncton, Ralph enjoys socializing with both residents and staff.
His has been a busy life, complete with his share of health challenges. He's had six hip replacements (four in one side and two in the other) and a ruptured appendix in 1928. Still he prevails, celebrating his 100th birthday on January 3 with family and friends.
A non-drinker and non-smoker, he credits eating "good food" and work for his healthy longevity.
"I always worked hard," he says. "I did the work of three men."