Book has special meaning for 90-year-old

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2000

Ida Turner Rice listened intently as the others discussed her book, "A Girl of the Limberlost.

Thursday, May 18, 2000

Ida Turner Rice listened intently as the others discussed her book, "A Girl of the Limberlost."

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The 90-year-old Arabia native even commented occasionally, without even glancing at the copy in front of her.

No, it’s not really her book; she didn’t write it, Mrs. Rice’s daughter Lois Gillenwater said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library’s Book Discussion Group.

The author, Gene Stratton-Porter, was born the same year as Mrs. Rice – 1909 – so it was only natural that the family read the author’s classic.

"Mom had them all and she read them to us, then we read them," Mrs. Gillenwater said.

Mrs. Rice read to each child often from "A Girl of the Limberlost" – she read it herself more than 20 times – and from the many books she would bring home.

And they all thank her for that lesson, Mrs. Gillenwater said.

"The love of reading is wonderful and can really influence your life."

To Mrs. Rice, Gene Stratton-Porter was one of the strongest influences in her rural life.

The story of Elnora Comstock’s first day of high school, which turns out to be a disaster, mirrored her own school days, she said.

In the book, Elnora is deeply wounded by her embittered mother’s lack of sympathy for her aspirations. She eventually finds comfort in the nearby Limberlost Swamp, whose beauty provides her with the means to better her life.

The many lessons that Stratton-Porter offered in that tome became like a guide to her, Mrs. Rice said.

Born and raised on Aaron’s Creek, she walked two miles to school and back in grade school but had to wait four years before going to Waterloo High because there was no public transportation then.

Later, she would remember her high school days, and the days she spent helping the Waterloo Wonders with their homework.

After graduation, Mrs. Rice moved to Ironton and began working at Horton’s Restaurant, where she met her future husband, self-employed mechanic Alvin Rice.

They married in 1937 and raised five children who gave them 13 grandchildren.

In 1989, Alvin Rice died and she lived alone until suffering a stroke six years later.

Now a resident of Bryant’s Health Center, Mrs. Rice continues to read, with a little help now from her daughters who read to her and work crosswords, Mrs. Gillenwater said.

Still, her mother never fails to inspire the entire family with her dedication to self-betterment, which all came from one book those many years ago, Mrs. Gillenwater said.

"She will be 91 on Oct. 3 and she plans to read many more books and work thousands of crossword puzzles before then."