Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Like her husband, Ruth was born in 1921 into farm life. She, however, was born and raised in Bladen County, North Carolina. Like all farmer’s children, Ruth had not only her chores, but her schoolwork. And like all large families, she had younger siblings to help tend to.
On Sunday’s there was church, and a day of rest, only for it to all begin again on Monday. But they worked as a family, all eventually growing up to have their own families. Ruth graduated from high school, continuing to work on the family farm. She also sold magazines to help make ends meet. It was around this time that she met her future husband, who she married in November of 1941. She and Odis settled down to raise a family and tobacco.
By the Fall of 1942 they were expecting their first child when Granddaddy was unexpectedly drafted. Ruth moved back in with her parents after Granddaddy left for Fort Bragg, staying there until after Linda was born. Six months later, the pair moved to Paris, Texas, where Granddaddy was stationed – likely at Camp Maxey. Years later, Grandmama told stories of her time there, including sharing a home with multiple families but only having one kitchen. They moved from there on a rainy day, and she recalled accidentally dropping clothes in a muddy hole. She said that on their way home to North Carolina, soldiers helped take care of the baby.
After Granddaddy was discharged from the Army, they renewed their life together, having a total of five children – four girls and a boy. Grandmama was not one to be scared off by a little hard work. While living in Bladenboro, she worked for Bladenboro Cotton Mills to supplement the income Granddaddy received from farming and driving a truck. Her commitment to her family was foremost, however, as she didn’t go to work until after her younger children were almost in high school.
After moving to Charlotte, she went to work as the manager of Myers Park Elementary School’s lunch cafeteria. On Sunday’s she and her two youngest girls would go to the school to take inventory and bake cookies. Later she was a snack bar manager at Zayre and at Woolco.
It seems food and cooking was something Ruth loved. Her grandchildren recall Ruth serving Sunday lunches, Southern style, and good old fashioned Thanksgiving meals. Home canned tomatoes and okra lined her basement shelves.
Grandmama loved her family, and had a strong sense of Christian faith. She knew the difficulties of large families, however, and shared those difficulties with me when I was expecting my fifth child. She never wanted her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have to make what she felt were sacrifices her family had to endure.
Ruth’s last years were spent in a nursing home in Gastonia, North Carolina. She died there in 2007, just weeks before I learned I was expecting my last child. Despite Grandmama’s concerns, her love of family and her ability to handle adversity was part of what inspired me to have a large family. Ruth was 85 years old.