DALLAS — Ruth Hauntz is 85 years old and has no plans to slow down. The longtime restaurateur, entrepreneur and community leader clocks into work at 3 a.m. every morning at Smokey John's Barbecue, where she prepares her signature dishes by hand.
Hauntz may be most famous for her tamales at the State Fair of Texas.
She partnered with Juan and Brent Reeves of Smokey John's Barbecue a few years ago and the trio has been dominating the fair's fried food contests ever since.
"Working with Brent and Juan has allowed me to be a part of something so much bigger than me," Hauntz said.
She says "making food is all about patience, love and experience."
Hauntz was surprised Friday by her family and friends WFAA with a tribute to her decades of influence. She thought she was at the TV studio for a cooking segment but soon learned she was the focus of the morning.
"I am speechless," Hauntz said.
Hauntz has been an example and mentor to countless women with dreams of owning their own business. Smokey John's kitchen manager Ronesha Childress says Hauntz is everything she wants to be.
"I always say when I grow up I want to be Miss Ruth," Childress said. "I look at how she's lived her life and there's just so much to learn from."
Hauntz started opening her own businesses alongside her husband decades ago. Her family says Hauntz and her husband were self-starters.
Her daughter Tiffany Elzy says if there was ever a challenge they simply found a way to get things done.
"If mom needs an answer she just finds it. She just has that infectious attitude that you can find a way," Elzy said.
Hauntz has also been politically active her entire life, campaigning for voter registration every chance she gets.
She credits her success to her faith and family. She says her favorite Proverbs verse stresses the virtues of a hard-working woman who loves and serves her family and community.