Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ellen Ruth Roberts, 1919-2009

Ellen Ruth Taylor Roberts, wife of Roy Gilbert Roberts, daughter of William Daniel Taylor and Dona Westerfield, passed away on Monday, September 28, 2009. Ruth, as she was known, was among other talents a wonderful mother, grandmother, and storyteller. Her stories of her family inspired me to get back into genealogy research. I thought I would try and share a few of those stories with you to help celebrate her life. Apologies to her family if I do not quite remember every detail correctly.

Ruth was born in Arkansas on October 31, 1919. Her family moved between Oklahoma and Arkansas several times during her childhood. More than once she told the story of how her family traveled to Oklahoma in a covered wagon (yes, such events did happen in the 20th century, at least in Oklahoma). At one point she was afraid the wagon would fall into the river when they traveled over a particularly gap-filled wooden bridge, so she got out of the wagon and crawled across the bridge on her hands and knees.

When she was 14, she moved to Owensboro, KY to live with her older sister Rose, to whom she was very close throughout her life. She and her sister got jobs at the local GE factory. She told the story of how they stood in line with hundreds of people to apply for a job at the factory, and were somehow noticed by a manager at the factory who pulled them out of line and gave them jobs. I guess he thought they were pretty! Ruth was fiercely proud of her independent nature and worked hard to support herself. By the time she was 16, she had saved enough to buy a full bedroom set for herself (a set which, as a sensible child of the depression, she used to this day).

On August 24, 1940, Ruth married Roy Gilbert Roberts, son of Joseph Lawrence and Agnes Maude Roberts. Even after she was married, Ruth continued to work. She worked as a beautician for the most part, operating a shop out of the back of her home. She also held various other jobs, including for a time postmaster, general store proprietor for the town of Adair, Kentucky, a small town that was little more than a mail stop of the railroad on the way out of Owensboro. She told of how it was her job to put the mail on the mailhook for the train to pick up. When the Roberts family eventually moved back to Owensboro, the mail service in Adair stopped and the town ceased to exist.

Ruth and Roy had five children, and by saving and sacrificing, they were able to send all five to college. Roy died in 1987, but Ruth continued to live on her own until suffering a stroke in 2006. In her later years, Ruth was always full of love and advice and wisdom for her grandchildren. She was fond of proscribing home remedies, such as soaking a sore elbow in epsom salts or giving beer to a colicky baby.

Ruth Roberts' obituary can be found here. Her funeral service is 10am on Friday, October 2 at Sts Joseph & Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro, KY.

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