November 21, 1999

Family, friends honor 100-year-old

Ruby McDonald celebrated her 100th birthday on Nov. 1 with a group of family and friends. She was given balloons, flowers and a birthday cake and enjoyed looking at old photos.

A day earlier, she had been honored at the Fall Festival at Good Samaritan Center, where she lives. In attendance were many fellow residents and some of her family and friends.

She was born Ruby Jayne Allen in Fox, Ore., on Nov. 1, 1899, to Jim and India Allen, who were both pioneers. Her father was the postmaster there and built the first store in that town in 1895. The family lived what today might seem a primitive life, but Ruby tells of many rich experiences that she treasures from that time.

The family moved to Salem in 1909, and Ruby graduated from Salem High School in 1919. She also graduated from nurse's training in 1927 at Pacific Christian Hospital in Eugene, which is now Sacred Heart Medical Center.

She married Jack McDonald in Eugene in 1933. The couple had a son, Steve, who lives in the local area. Her husband and a stepdaughter, Jean Henrickson, died in 1977.

Ruby worked for a surgeon for 11 years. During World War II, she ran a medical clinic in Coburg for farm workers and performed the duties of a doctor, including emergency field surgery.

In 1947, she was one of the founding members of the Eugene Weavers Guild and became a master weaver. She won many top prizes for her weaving at the Lane County and Oregon State fairs. Her biggest enjoyment was teaching many younger weavers her secrets and helping them obtain and set up their equipment.

She also was a skilled artist and a potter and designed and helped build her own home, doing all the cabinet work and painting.

She and her husband always maintained a large garden and orchard and shared the produce and flowers with many friends and neighbors.

She and her family kept a large collection of wild waterfowl and other birds on their farm and she frequently would give guided tours to classes of schoolchildren.

Some of the birds in the flocks of Canada geese that now live wild in this area are descendants of the birds that the family kept for many years in the Norkenzie neighborhood. Often, some of these geese can be seen and heard flying over her residence. It has always been a thrill for her to listen at her window as they come by.

She was a charter member of Norkenzie Christian Church and continued in an active role for decades. She provided, planted and cared for most of the rhododendrons, azaleas and trees that surround the church.

In just a few weeks, Ruby will have lived in 12 different decades, three centuries and two millennia. Most of her oldest friends are now gone, but she has many new friends and admirers to carry on.

Copyright 1999 The Register-Guard
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Last update - July 2, 2003