Goodbye, Mrs. G: Ruth Grappone dies at 101

  • Ruth Grappone (left) celebrates her 100th birthday with longtime friend Gloria Monahan on April 27, 2019.

  • Ruth Grappone, shown here in 2019, died Thursday at 101.

  • In this April 27, 2019, photo, Ruth Grappone cuts the cake for her 100th birthday at the Harris Hill Center in Concord. Grappone was a fixture at the family business, retiring at the age of 98. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor columnist
Published: 1/4/2021 4:56:59 PM

Ruth Grappone, the woman forever known as Mrs. G, right down to the name tag she wore for decades at her car dealership, died of COVID-19 on New Year’s Eve.

Before she left us at the age of 101, though, Grappone had long ago cemented her legacy as the face of this giant local empire. Simply by being herself.

She greeted customers out front, settling into the lobby at the Grappone Ford branch, the receptionist, married to the son of the founder, who transformed herself into a welcome mat.

More like a red carpet, really. Mrs. G, who formally retired three years ago at the age of 98, made everyone feel special.

Bob McCullen, the longtime senior team leader at Grappone, celebrated Ruth’s 100th birthday in the spring of 2019 at the Harris Hill Center in Concord. He mentioned her work ethic, passion and motivation that pushed her to get to the dealership each day, well into her 90s.

“If we were working on a holiday weekend, she’d show up, even on a Sunday,” McCullen said at the time. “If we were working, she was working. She served as a great role model.”

“She always had her table,” longtime Grappone employee Vickie Kaspszak said at Ruth’s 2019 party. “We still have people who ask for her. It just happened two weeks ago. ‘Is Mrs. G coming in?’ ”

The Grappone family declined to comment, choosing to let the obituary they submitted to the Monitor (Page A4) do their talking.

It said Ruth was born in Franklin and raised in Center Harbor. She had a pet hen named Lady Locket and a collie named Betty. At 16, she was the lone girl in her high school class to reach the summit of Mount Washington, a story she told often.

She loved jazz, Janis Joplin and Tom Brady.

The obituary read, in part, “ ‘Mrs. G’ spent many years at Grappone Ford greeting guests and chatting about the good old days. Her nametag let people know that she’d been a team member since 1940.”

That’s the year she married John Grappone, whose mother and father had started the family business with the purchase of a filling station in 1924. Car sales began five years later, at the start of The Great Depression.

They were married for 71 years, until John’s death in 2012. By then, Ruth’s public relations campaign – which wasn’t really a campaign at all but a genuine concern for others – had become legendary.

She continued to work six days a week until her retirement in 2017. Her family and friends, some of whom had traveled from Florida, threw her a 100th birthday party in April 2019 at the Harris Hill Center.

George Young was there. He worked at Grappone for 50 years, and he still puts in a few hours a week. His recollection of Ruth showed how unpretentious she was, despite the family’s wealth.

“An awesome boss,” Young said at the party. “Once I was waiting in line to renew my driver’s license and she was there. She said hi to me, and I was really surprised she knew who I was.”

About a dozen or so guests were there. Ruth sat in her wheelchair, at the head of a long table, with silver balloons spelling out “100” off to her left. Her smooth silver and white hair shone in the light.

Ruth loved crossword puzzles and was still doing them at 98. Staying busy was always the goal for Ruth. That’s why she kept going to the dealership, even on Saturdays, as her 100th birthday peeked over the horizon.

“It keeps me busy,” she told me at her party. “It keeps your brain busy every day.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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