Ruth Stimson        
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Backyard Construction

picture Ruth's drawing of the ramp that she designed and built
On October 30, 1988, Ruth's mother, Pauline, celebrated her 100th birthday. Pauline's health had been failing. She was losing her balance. A fall resulted in a stay at Exeter Hospital. When she returned home, the Visiting Nurses brought her a wheelchair. Ruth set to work figuring out how to get her mother from the house to the car using the wheelchair.

"I decided to build a ramp," says Ruth. "I measured and sketched and measured again as to the best angle to construct a ramp. It took several drawings to visualize the design from various angles. Next came my calculations on materials needed: treated 4 inch x 4 inch posts, two sheets of exterior plywood, patio blocks, some 2 inch x 4 inch by 8 foot lumber for a railing, some strapping, and some nails. A lumber company delivered my order, and placed it inside our garage. Then the wood wouldn't get wet, and I could work there to saw in November.

"It took me part of a week to plan the patio stone placement for the wooden post framework over the back door steps before I could attach the plywood. I cut one sheet in half to reduce its weight, but knew that I needed help with the second sheet if I left it whole to make the slanted portion of the ramp to the little garage door.

"Tom Craven, a UNH classmate, kindly offered to help me fit and install that heavy 4 foot x 8 foot plywood sheet. We measured very carefully and sawed openings to go around the upright posts. We had to make some adjustments due to the slant. Finally the ramp was usable after our labor. The railing was still needed.

"On the weekend, Ken Nelson, a neighbor, and I worked on a very cold November day to figure out the slant for the top railing. I knew I could saw off the top of each post by hand, but Ken used his electric saw. Then I did the hammering on the top railing. I was very grateful for Tom's and Ken's assistance.

"Now I could get mother to the car safely. Ken suggested need of friction tape on the slanted ramp for winter use. I finally tacked down foot square asphalt shingles that worked well. Eventually I painted the plywood dark green to preserve it. Then I signed with relief and expressed my thanks for such kind friends."

Ruth was 70 years old when she built the ramp.