Ruby Mae Mudgett was born to LeRoy and Clara Mudgett on January 6, 1923 in Fargo, N. Dakota. She joined her brother Harvey (18 months older), and 22 months later, sister Bernice came. Her father struggled to find work, but made harnesses for a while. When Ruby was four, sadly he left the family, and she never saw him again. Her single mother returned to Colome. She made ends meet doing household work and selling her oatmeal cookies. The children had to live at times with Aunt Margaret Funk, and took turns riding the train to Dunsmuir, California to live with Aunt Sue Funk Evans, where they attended school. The family of five lived a few years with grandparents Fred and Alcinda Funk in a one-bedroom house southwest of Winner. Ruby did not complain of hardship, but accepted life and said she remembered an orange in her school lunch every day. She determined not to complain, choosing to focus on the positive.
She enjoyed school, graduating from Colome High School. She kept in touch with good friends. Many recall that one day Ruby and Thelma Atteberry went to the cellar after school, and ate a whole jar of canned peaches, which “was against the rules.” She loved fun school songs from The Golden Songbook, and sang them recently at age 93, enjoying them again.
At fifteen, she began to date Orris Shippy. She hunted with him and was amazed when she shot her first rabbit, so she always said, “Maybe he just fell down from fright.” She helped extract honey even though she was stung five times the first day before figuring out where to lay her hand. His Aunt Margaret Shippy was married to her Uncle Lee Funk, so they knew each other from family gatherings, and spent lots of fun times at their house playing dominoes and eating popcorn.
They married two years later on June 17, 1940 and celebrated their seventieth anniversary in 2010. They loved farming south of Colome. She deeply loved him and their six children, eighteen grandchildren, and thirty-five great grandchildren. Babies and little children were her lifelong love. They still delighted her even as recently as two weeks ago. Spending twenty winters in Arizona gave them a special time with family there. She loved selflessly, and grandchildren brought her special joy, because she had more time to enjoy each one, and that love went both ways.
She cooked the hard way, making all the family’s bread, butter, cottage cheese, and the weekly summer gallon of ice cream, and so much more. The family loved it, thinking she did too, but learned later it was not her first love; she just did her work, with a smile and laughter. So we thought, it was as much fun for her as it was for us. She gardened, sewed, and worked hard. Her hobby was faithfully writing many postcards and letters to her family and numerous friends.
Facing anxiety her whole life, Ruby kept busy to cope and did not let it interfere with her love of people. One particular fear was horses, because of a photo of a horse rearing up near a girl. But in recent years she enjoyed watching westerns, especially the beauty of horses as they ran. She knew she wasn’t perfect, but trusted God and His good news of Jesus coming to be like us, die in our place, and rescue us from independence from Him. Living her faith quietly, she accepted people and life, and was known for her heart of compassion, and was also a champion listener.
She loved people not things, and brought joy to many with her warm smile and love of laughter. Her sister said, “Ruby laughed until she was beside herself, until you just couldn’t understand it.” She laughed with her entire being. One time she laughed so hard that she fell off her chair, and that was as an adult.
She managed diabetes, survived several TIA’s (first in July 2010), a broken hip May 2013 (as she gathered dandelions at age ninety-one). She worked hard to walk again and get back to her home in the Elder Inn, where she had lived with Orris for five years and then four more by herself. Then Feb 2015, colon cancer came knocking. She recovered as best she could from surgery, but soon moved to Winner Regional Long Term Care June 2015. She fell two months later, breaking the other hip, and spent her last year in a wheelchair. 2016 brought more decline with strokes, a heart attack, and some dementia. Through it all, by God’s mercy, she found strength and ways to recover, remember and connect with people, sing on the phone, keep her mind as clear as she could, smile and laugh frequently.