Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Remembering Aunt Ruth

Love at first sight for both of us
Middlesboro, Kentucky, 1961
When I was a little girl, some of the neighborhood kids had come over to play.  While swinging in the backyard, one little girl began to make fun of me because I didn't have any grandparents.  Unlike most of the other kids, all my grandparents had passed away, you see.  I was hurt, but I said nothing.  However, my friend, Susan, who became a hero to me that day, immediately piped up and said:  "Well, she may not have any grandparents, but she has an Aunt Ruth!"  Yes, I had an Aunt Ruth, and she was a treasure.

Myrtle Ruth Lane was her full given name, though I didn't know that until I was a teenager.  (Aunt Ruth hated the name "Myrtle," and she never wanted my mom to tell me that was her name.)  Ruth Lane was the seventh of  William and Martha Lane's children, and was nine years older than my mom, Betty.  Ruth was born on January 25, 1917, in Eagan, Tennessee, another small coal mining community close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

M.yrtle Ruth Williamson

After graduating from Lafollette (TN) High School,  Aunt Ruth attended Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, for a couple of years.  She played basketball while at LMU and this was when women were only allowed to play half-court.  They played only offense or defense and only on one end of the court.  At the time, full court play was considered too taxing for women.

In 1940, according to the U. S. Federal Census, Ruth, then age 24, was living at her parents' home in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and working as an assistant photographer.

Joe and Ruth Lane Williamson
c. 1940

Aunt Ruth married Joe Williamson and they settled down in a log house on Pinnacle Road just outside of Middlesboro, Kentucky.  Their first child, Betty Jo, was born in 1942.  Joe enlisted in the U. S. Army in 1943 and fought in World War II, while Aunt Ruth continued to work and raise her daughter.  In 1949, a second daughter, Cynthia Ann, was stillborn.  Joe and Aunt Ruth divorced soon after.

Ruth Lane Williamson and
Betty Jo Williamson
c. 1947
Aunt Ruth and Betty Jo moved into Middlesboro, and this is where Aunt Ruth would live for most of the rest of her life.  She worked for many years as a social worker for the Department of Human Resources in Pineville, Kentucky, which is a short distance from Middlesboro.  After leaving this job, she became the first Director of the newly formed Cooperative Christian Ministries (CCM) in Middlesboro.  CCM was a combined effort of several area churches to aid disadvantaged people in the community.  Persistent health problems, however, forced Aunt Ruth to soon retire.

Me and my Aunt Ruth
Christmas Morning, c. 1978
Aunt Ruth's daughter, Betty Jo, and her children, Joy and Joe Goins, lived in Middlesboro for many years, as well, and were a huge part of Ruth's life.  Her grandchildren were her treasures.  Somehow she also found time for me.  My parents, Betty Lane and Frank W. Lee, and I lived in Middlesboro, too, and Aunt Ruth was a frequent and favorite visitor to our house.  She often took me for drives, and we would sing whatever songs we knew while cruising around town.  Throughout the year, she and I would regularly crouch down in front of our fireplace, look up the chimney, and yell for Santa Claus--just in case he might have stopped by for a surprise visit.  She was always at our house early on Christmas morning to watch me open presents and to see what Santa had delivered.  She was there, too, for every birthday, Easter, and other special day for me, and I loved her more than I can say.

Ruth Lane Williamson
Although I've always missed having my grandparents around, my friend, Susan, was right.  I had an Aunt Ruth--and she was enough.  


  1. What a treasure your Aunt Ruth is . . . I enjoyed reading your post on the wonderful rare relationship you had with your Aunt Ruth . . . it's such a gift to have that in life. Thank you for sharing her.

    1. You're so right, Gini! It is a gift to have such a precious relationship. I feel blessed. Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

  2. I have a very special aunt that lives in Louisville, KY where most of my paternal ancestors were. We only knew of each other since 2008! I had never met my real father and finally spoke to him in the 90's. He passed away and I thought that would be it for that side of my family. Well I found that he had a sister, my namesake, and she was still alive (now 83). I drove from California to Kentucky just to meet her in April of 2008 . . . we are very very close . . . she is the best aunt ever. Thanks again for the wonderful posts on your dear Aunt Ruth!

    1. Wow, Gini! I think it's great that you were able to talk to your father before he died. But to find your aunt and develop such a special relationship with her is just wonderful! If there's ever any research I can do for you here in KY, please let me know.