JIM RUTH’S HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN

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A Pat On The Back! with Patsy Nobles Jones

Jim is a friend I met at an auction sale of Don Ellis’s home and content in 2011. We hit it off so well that our friendship lasted these last 10 years. Of course, I knew his parents, O.B Ruth (1908/1978) and Reba Mae Graves Ruth, (1916/1996) and siblings, Ossie Mae (Buster) Beshires and Bobby (Judy) Ruth. He continually bragged on his mother’s coconut cakes and all the canning she did. He bragged on his daddy proving a Saturday treat at Four Way Grocery – hand-dipped ice cream cones! Consider it an early Baskins Robbins treat for all.
Jimmy Allen had left Chester County, married Rosie Angel Ruth, later moved to Brighton, but returned to Chester County for visits at Four Way Flower Shop to eat with Mother, Daddy and later Bobby and Judy and once with Katie and me. He was from the Chester County High School Class of 1956, so I was too young to be in his social circle, but I was blessed to get in on the last ride.
Later, he would stop at Four Way to visit with remaining family. Judy had a nice meal ready. Jim loved his baby brother and appreciated his trips to Brighton and later Covington nursing home before it closed to visitors due to COVID-19. Jim’s sister Ossie has the same “Brain-Power” that Jim inherited.
During his high school years his respected principal was James Williams – same as mine. The superintendent was Tom Armour. Jim’s senior class consisted of about 83; and he was the president. He had many friends, but I can not remember many, but Joel and Janis double-dated with him; Sylvia Johnson Harris was a leader and enjoyed phone chats; Gary Rhodes was a good fun guy who made it to class on time thanks to Jimmy Jones; Larry Woody was a prankster; Carroll Priddy was “Pretty Boy”; and Claudie Horn was just plain pretty.
The telephone was Jim’s BEST friend. We talked EVERY day and sometimes twice a day. It was short and sweet but filled a day with smiles from cute remarks. No telling how many cards or letters Jim sent us (kept all) and many others. Inside one card we sent included a book of stamps that wouldn’t last him long. Jim loved the U.S.A. and was patriotic. He knew Don had served in the TN National Guard for 41 years; thus, Don got patriotic cards on Veterans Day and Fourth of July. Jim loved listed names of Chester County men whose names are engraved in granite for serving and sacrificing lives during war. The Chester County Independent tries to list them every Memorial Day.
For years Jim called most of his classmates, but some never called him. It hurt, but new circles are formed and he accepted it. Jim’s bus driving pals stayed in close contact. One drove a long distance to surprise him in the nursing home. Jim called crying with being overjoyed. He stayed in touch with his family. They were loving toward him especially following his 1963 accident. He was in a coma almost three weeks. His family drove in snow to Memphis; they never failed one day to visit.
Jim was thrilled when Chester County Alumni was created. Jim and Katie Meade attended each one. Jim spoke briefly at his last alumni meeting. Due to his health, Principal Ricky Catlett allowed the use of his executive chair. I pushed Jim to the front. One of us said, “wheee,” and the other picked up long granddaddy long legs during the ride! Jim loved the dinner hour just to see and talk to many friends. He even kept a spiral notebook of Chester County Independents obits – he cared.
Do you remember little cards he handed out and shared paperwork on his Trailways bus trip with Freedom Riders to Mississippi? In 2011, NAACP honored Jim on the 50th anniversary of Freedom Riders. His mementos are in the TN State Museum. Mary Randolph Curtis, another telephone pal made a trip to the museum, so she could tell Jim all about it. That started a nice phone friendship, too. He has had about 37,000 business cards printed with name, address, phones and church to keep in touch.
Chester County was in Jim’s heart. He was hungry for news and counted on Brenda Connor; she had his type of memory. Jim talked about returning “Home,” but health issues and the big moving day seemed to be too much for Jim. He stayed in Brighton. He attended Munford Church of Christ. His minister, Bob Holland and his wife and congregation are his great friends. Can never forget the phone call asking me to guess what his church family was doing for him right now; he was crying. I tried to make him laugh by answering, “Are they having dinner on the ground for you?” He laughed and added humbly, “My brothers in Christ are cleaning and clearing my entire property.” I told him to invite Tarzan, Jane and Cheeta into his home since their jungle would be gone. Ha-ha Jim wouldn’t repeat my naughty remarks!
Jim had not been able to keep the property up due to his health and extra cost, so he had to do minimum. His church family did an act of Christian love Jim never forgot (me either). I reminded Brother Bob Holland at Jim’s visitation of this act. I was so proud to meet him and his wife. Brother Holland said that was what Christianity meant – helping others.
One visit to Jim’s home was before his property was cleared. He talked to me about his special dog, Baby Ruth. That little friend is buried in the backyard with his own tombstone. I had forgotten Baby Ruth’s name, until Brother Holland recalled his name while at the funeral home. A large framed dog photo sat near Jim – his eyes expressed love for his master. Picture Baby Ruth and Jim Ruth at play now.
Another visit was to pick up man-made marble from a business using Jim’s influence to get us in the door. We ate lunch together, our treat for appreciation. We carried Jim a Sears stuffed moose to Covington nursing home. I named it “Little Jimmy”. I snapped a picture of them; Jim kept Little Jimmy for a while, but sent him home to rest more comfortably. Maybe his step-daughters, Lela DeBord, Joyce Amon or Charlotte Ratliff can discover Little Jimmy for me to pick up as a keepsake.
Auctions were important to Jim for socialization and bidding. He’d make a purchase and finally give it to a sibling or friend. Jim’s permanent auction number was assigned especially for him – number seven! He didn’t desire possessions anymore. His high was being with or talking to people. Some of his dear auction friends were Randy Fisher; Harold Murphy; Tim Hardee; Tommy Pruitt and Family; Lynn and Lesa Hyde; Sandy and Bill Cook; Tammy Mayfield; Bennie Anderson; Jeanette Wright and Family; Harriet Braden and Family; Barbara Tillman; Barbara Nelson; Charlie Miller; Tony Fisher; Dr. Nancy Caudillo and more too numerous to list.
Jim’s special friends who were like family are Katie Meade and Glenn Stanley who stayed very close for six years during auctions, meals, family visits, trips to animal rescue, appointments, health scares, disappointments and sitting at his hospital side. Others were Judy Switalski whose husband, John worked with Jim in Michigan years ago. Jerry and Teresa Switalski and Family. Jerry drove Katie and Glenn to Jim’s visitation in Henderson. Jim said they were priceless antiques!
Jim told a friend, Katie Meade two months before his passing the John Elders Auction in Ripley, Tennessee. was the highlight of his week. Jim was surrounded by above friends and shared so many stories using dates, states and people’s names. He stored phone numbers in his head. What a great mind and memory he had – brain power was his rich fortune all his life. The last two weeks he started asking for numbers, so I knew his health was changing; and Don and I were so sad.
The Covid-virus epidemic separated Jim from socialization with his friends. It affected not only Jim, but all seniors cut-off from their loved ones. Truthfully we all got cheated, and many are in the cemetery. The Covid-virus and cancer are cruel. Jim told us several times he had been blessed with a good family and life. He loved his wife and wanted to be at her side at Blackburn Cemetery. He did what he wanted to do. He was ready to go to his heavenly home.
Memories Jimmy Allen Ruth kept, treasured and wanted to continue making. We simply didn’t want to stop making memories with Jimmy! “It’s not where you start – it’s where you finish that counts” –Zig Ziglar. Jim Ruth made nationwide TV and front page news! Wow, a little ‘ole country boy from Chester County! Can you hear his soft blowing windy whistle after personal recognition? Blow, little buddy blow…your Highway to Heaven is open. Put your hammer down, Buddy….Sunrise, April 11,