CONWAY — Julia Ruth Stevens will always be remembered as Babe Ruth’s daughter, but around the Mount Washington Valley she’s also being hailed as an innkeeper, storekeeper, “egg lady” and an active, cherished member of the community.
Stevens, who died March 9 in Nevada at the age of 102, was born in Athens, Ga., on July 7, 1916, to Claire Hodgson and her husband, Frank. The couple split and mom and daughter moved to New York.
In 1923, Hodgson met George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr., aka the “Sultan of Swat,” who was tearing up baseball with the New York Yankees — three years after the Red Sox sold him to their future nemesis for $125,000.
Ruth married Hodgson in 1929 and later adopted Stevens. He also had a daughter from a previous relationship.
In 1939, four years after his last professional at-bat, Ruth was invited to play golf at the North Conway Country Club. It was there, while avoiding what the history of the Cranmore Mountain Lodge describes as “a sudden rainstorm,” that Julia Ruth Stevens met Dick Flanders, the man who would become her first husband.
The history was researched and written by Judy Helfand, who owned the lodge from 1986 to 1997. It states that Stevens and Flanders married in May 1940 in Manhattan, with Ruth presenting his daughter with a baseball bat after the ceremony.
The newlyweds then returned to North Conway, where since 1938 Flanders had operated the Bybrook Lodge. The couple changed the name to the Cranmore Mountain Lodge and ran it until 1949, when Flanders became ill and died.
His widow sold the lodge in March 1950 and, according to her obituary in the New York Times, later operated a general store in Eaton Center. It was there she met Grant Meloon, who would become her second husband.
The Meloons divorced and Stevens then married Brent Stevens. The two were married for 49 years and ran an egg farm together.
Brian Wiggin, vice president of the Conway Historical Society, is friends with Stevens’ son, Tom. He said the two played Little League baseball together.
The two families knew each other well, Wiggin said on Monday, adding that he remembered Stevens delivering eggs.
“I also got to know her much better in later years and I found pictures of her and her mother with Kate Smith on her radio show where Babe Ruth appeared as a comedian,” Wiggin said. “I showed her the picture and she said, ‘My mother’s wearing my hat!’
“I have a lot of fond memories of her. She was very active in the community and it was a pleasure for Conway to have her as a resident for so long.”
A seasonal resident in her final years, Wiggin said Stevens was fortunate to live to see her father honored posthumously by President Donald Trump with the Medal of Freedom.
Her family’s legacy lives on locally, said Wiggin, with an annual Babe Ruth scholarship presented to a Kennett High School student.
The Eaton Village Store is the successor to Stevens’ hardware and home goods store. Kate and Justin Armenio have owned and operated it since 2015.
Justin Armenio, a 1994 Kennett graduate who played baseball for the Eagles, recalled that Stevens came to wish the team well and see them play.
“It’s a shame to hear for sure,” he said of Stevens’ death, noting that she had been a longtime Boston Red Sox fan and was also blessed to have a long, full life.
“She was liked around here,” he summed up.
The Cranmore Mountain Lodge, owned since 2006 by Frederique and Thierry Procyk, is filled with memorabilia celebrating “the Babe,” who was a guest there in 1941 and stayed in Room 2.
Stevens last visited the lodge about 16 years ago, said Procyk, when it was owned by Kevin and Jean Flanagan, who are now neighbors.
“When we bought the lodge, we didn’t have a clue” about Babe Ruth’s connection to it, said Procyk. “We bought it because of the location and the number of rooms.”
Gradually, the Flanagans shared the story, said Procyk. The lodge features the popular Babe Ruth Room, No. 2, which apart from modern amenities, is much like it was when Ruth stayed there.
Procyk said she found out about Stevens’ death on Facebook.
“She’s a part of Cranmore Mountain Lodge history that’s passed away and that’s sad,” she said.