Ruby Kathleen George

Ruby, c. mid-1920s

Ruby, c. mid-1920s

A beautifully manicured red fingernail just tapped me on the shoulder. Hello, Ruby! Yes, it’s your turn now! The second oldest of my four grandparents is my mom’s mother, Ruby Kathleen Melbra George. Ruby was born in Cuba, Illinois (pop. 2,000) on April 6, 1908, to Arthur George and Esther Yemm. Esther broke with tradition when she named her daughter Ruby—Ruby’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all named Esther or Hester. Could Melbra have come from Esther’s English friend, Melborough Adams Grindle? In Esther’s cockney accent, Melborough would have sounded like Melbra. (Some thirty years later when both were widowed, Esther would marry Jim Grindle, Melborough’s husband.)

Ruby, c. 1919-20

Ruby, c. 1919-20

Esther with baby Ruby, 1908

Esther with baby Ruby, 1908

Grandma Ruby was the oldest of three children. Soon after she was born, her father went west to work and was gone for several years. During that time, Esther worked at the Cuba House Hotel, a time Ruby remembered fondly. She was the darling of the traveling salesmen who stayed at the Hotel when they passed through town and who often brought her candy or little trinkets. When Arthur returned to Cuba, Ruby’s brother Ken and sister Eileen were born, in 1915 and 1916, respectively. Arthur died in the 1918 Influenza Epidemic when Ruby was 10 years old. Ruby graduated from Cuba High School in 1926, packed her bags and moved to the big city of Peoria, Illinois (pop. 67,000) to attend Brown’s Business College.

Ruby, probably c. 1930s

Ruby, c. early 1930s

Ruby with girls in the backyard at Frye, c. mid-1940s

Ruby with Sharon (left) and Carol (right), Maryland Avenue, c. mid-1940s

Ruby on Frye Avenue, c. early 1950s

Ruby on Frye Avenue, c. early 1950s

Ruby married Edward Ernest Cannaday on June 21, 1930, in Joliet, Illinois. Ruby and Ed had two girls, Sharon and Carol. But for a brief stint in Tennessee, Ruby lived in Peoria the rest of her life. When the girls were still at home, the family lived in the East Bluff area of Peoria. The house at 317 Frye Avenue was a family favorite. After Ed died in 1956, Ruby lived in beautifully appointed apartments on College Street (near Bradley University), historic Roanoke Avenue, and finally Beverly Court.

Ruby with Carol (left) and Sharon (right), Dec. 1956

Ruby with Carol (left) and Sharon (right), Dec. 1956

Ruby, c. 1960s

Ruby, c. 1960s

Ruby was ahead of her time, a modern professional woman. Fresh out of college, she worked as a personal assistant for an insurance executive. Later, she worked as a secretary for the interior design department at Cohen’s Furniture Company. Ruby’s professional career culminated in a long-term position as an office manager for Dr. Canterbury, an orthopedic surgeon.

For more than 25 years, Ruby enjoyed the company of her friend, Bernard “Mac” McReynolds. Grandma Ruby died on November 6, 1984, at the age of 76.

Ruby and Taco, 1981

Ruby and Taco, 1981

Grandma Ruby was confident, courageous, independent, and direct. Ruby was a picture of fashion and sophistication in her pencil skirt, high heels, and cat-eye glasses, cigarette in hand. She drove a sporty little white ’67 Camaro RS—the envy of many a teenage boy then and now! She had an odd-looking brindle mutt named Taco and identified his breed as “Mexican border dog” if anyone was gauche enough to ask. Grandma Ruby was a serious bridge player, but she was always up for a game of double solitaire or gin rummy. Her Sunday evening ritual was watching Mannix (she thought Joe Mannix was a pretty handsome guy) and The F.B.I. with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Ruby, 1984

Ruby, April 1982

Share one of your favorite memories of our dear Ruby!

6 thoughts on “Ruby Kathleen George

  1. Our Grandma Ruby, now as I look at these photos and read her story I truly appreciate what a inspirational woman she was! I remember going to her apartment and how beautiful all her things were; how “put together ” she was.. always! She was not a warm, fuzzy type but we knew she loved us even through the pain of the dreaded BRUSH! We spent most of our lives outside so our long hair was always a mess! Ruby could not stand that and would say upon our arrival to her place ” get me the brush.” We would pout and cry as she ran the clear plastic brush with stiff bristles through our tangled hair! It’s funny now. The summer Terri and I were 11 she was brave enough to take us on a bus tour out West for a week…I can appreciate now how exhausting it must have been, we just thought it was fun. After one particularly grueling day touring the Badlands, Ruby had a beer at dinner. We were shocked and a little impressed. We never saw her ever drink a beer! Immediately after getting back to our hotel she took off her clothes and was laying on the bed in her matching bra and slip; never had we seen such a thing. To us it must have really been out of the ordinary because the next day we announced to the whole bus load of our fellow travelers (mostly couples) that Ruby got drunk and passed out naked on the bed! Now, I understand how mortified she was! I miss her so much but I love when I see her come through in my Mom, Sister, Aunt and Cousins… We always say… Now there’s Ruby.

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    • Cuzzie, I love these memories of Grandma Ruby! I don’t know how, but I had forgotten all about the BRUSH!! The trip West was such a huge event for us, it’s really amazing that she took us along. (Maybe she secretly thought a bus full of ONLY senior citizens would be too boring!) I remember another “incident” toward the end of the trip when we were jumping like monkeys on the bed of our second floor hotel room and management called and told Grandma they were getting complaints and to quiet it down. (That probably led to the beer night, haha!) xo

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  2. Dear Niece, You have captured Ruby perfectly! She was the bomb, both as a Mom and awesome friend rolled into one. She had great confidence and courage which I try to emulate when needed! Rhubarb, we miss you!

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