Fern Ridge Review
Sweet Lorane Community News
September 27, 2018
By Pat Edwards
Today, I want to wish “Happy Birthday” to my beautiful mother, Ruth Kinsman Burnett Smith Cody Ward. She would have been 103 years of age today—Friday, September 28. We lost her on January 4, 2012 at the age of 96, but she is so vibrantly alive in my heart that she seems to be with me still.
The year before her passing, she came to live with my sister and me here in the Willamette Valley. She left a husband in Bend who was unable to care for her himself. Mama never wanted to live to be 100. She felt she had lived a good life and did not want to become dependent on others. She was always an elegant yet “down-to-earth” woman who led an active life.
Early-on, she lived through the great Long Beach, California earthquake of March 10, 1933 as a young woman of 18, as she watched her high school crumble. Her graduation ceremony was held on the football field that year because the school was so badly damaged.
A few years before, during the Great Depression, her father abandoned his wife and two daughters and they had to live off of whatever they could earn and the kindness of Grandma’s uncle.
Through her life, she had four husbands. My father was her second after an unsuccessful first marriage from which she brought a young son. She and Daddy were married for 25 years before the rigors of moving every few years finally took their toll. During those 25 years though, she grew from a big-city girl, into a farmer’s wife on my grandparent’s farm on Powell Road between Lorane and Crow. The farm had no electricity or indoor plumbing. She washed clothes in the wash shed where she had to dump water out of the door that stood 3 feet above the ground from the old ringer washer. She laughed when she told the story of dumping the whole washing machine over the edge of doorway one time. Baths were taken in a metal washtub in the middle of the kitchen. The last one in got the dirty water.
Grandma insisted that Mama help with the farm chores, too. One of Mama’s jobs was to hold a piece of wood in front of the chickens eyes as the ax descended. Grandma didn’t want them to see their fate as it happened… We were all a soft-hearted bunch.
Through the rest of those 25 years, she was a mother who participated with her children in their activities, serving as Brownie and Girl Scout leader for me, and Rainbow Scout leader for my sister. Despite frequent moves, we were a close-knit family and we got to experience new adventures and places to see. She was always a good sport, but her wants and wishes always seemed to take second place to those of my father’s. He loved his family fiercely, but he was a dominant head of the household.
Her 3rd marriage was to the love of her life—literally. Our whole family loved Dutch and we had never seen Mama so happy. They became snow birds, traveling in their small motor home, to see the U.S. and taking a few trips to Dutch’s native Ireland and other parts of Europe. Unfortunately, the 10 years or so they were married ended when he died suddenly. Her heart was broken and so was mine.
Mama settled in Bend, Oregon eventually, where our oldest daughter, Gloria, lived, because she did not like the rain of the Willamette Valley. She lived a quiet life there but when Gloria moved back to Eugene, she joined a square dancing club and met Chuck and became part of his social group. They married and grew old together.
Someday, I’d like to write her story in more detail. She wrote a lot of it down for us several years before she passed.
She will always be with me as she was through my entire life, supporting me through trials and joy, mentoring me and showing me the way to maturity. But, what I miss most is being able to ask her advice, share a hug and experience her pleasure in learning new things.
Thank you for all you have done for our family, Mama. Happy Birthday!