The people behind the names: Ruby Sisson

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Roundup time on the Henry Gordon Ranch. In the early days, ranchers helped each other during roundups, creating a series of roundups scattered around in the various geographical parts of the county. The first local rodeos took place during these roundups.

In this week’s column, we conclude our narrative describing Ruby Sisson, for whom the county library is named.

We are quoting from an article located in the Hershey history collection in the library in a history series titled Remembrances. The article was written by Mamie Lynch, longtime friend and confidant of Ruby Sisson.

Lynch was executor of Miss Ruby’s estate and in the article explains how the estate was distributed. She explains that 50 percent went to the Pagosa Springs High School Scholarship Fund, 20 percent to an Exploratorium account set up by Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, 15 percent to the library, 10 percent to the United Methodist Church of Pagosa Springs and 5 percent to the emergency medical technicians.

In compliance with Miss Ruby’s request, Mamie set up a committee to oversee the scholarship fund.

The trust expired Dec. 31, 2004, according to the article.

Robert Lindner, who had purchased Miss Ruby’s Upper Blanco ranch, also purchased the land for the new library. He donated it to the library board with the stipulation that it be called the Ruby Sisson Memorial Library.

Miss Ruby’s husband, Red, died in an automobile accident in 1957. Their only child died in infancy. Her sister, Eva, taught English at Pagosa Springs High School in 1931. Eva married Sid Foster in Durango 1938 and died in 1972.

“Everybody respected Ruby Sisson,” Mamie said. “Not everybody loved her, but everybody respected her. She was a moral person. Honest, truthful and dependable. Our daughter enjoyed working on the ranch and learned much from Ruby. I am proud of my association with this wonderful lady. She was the kind of person many of us aspire to be.”

“Two former students remember Ruby as a strict disciplinarian,” Mamie said. “Marilyn Cotton Yeager, class of 1960, and Jean Macht Taylor, class of 1955, remember Miss Ruby as a teacher who would not stand for talking at the wrong time or anything else that could be, what she would call ‘unruly’ or not ‘ladylike.’ They also remember that boys were given much more latitude in class than girls were allowed. John Taylor and Bob Formwalt, also former students of Miss Ruby, don’t remember the boys being given preference in class.”

In 1955, Marilyn Cotton won a junior high spelling bee, according to Mabel. Afterwards, Mamie said, Miss Ruby spent many hours coaching her to prepare her for the state spelling contest in Denver. Miss Ruby accompanied Marilyn to Denver.

Another former student, Kathy Kleckner McWhirter, class of 1965, remembers being “thumped” on the head by Miss Ruby when Kathy did not get a math problem correct, Mamie said.

“But she was a different person out of the class. When I was class secretary, Mrs. Sisson was one of my best supporters,” Mamie quotes Kathy.

Kathy’s father, Karl Kleckner, was also a student of Ruby’s and was in the class with Red Sisson.

This concludes my story about Miss Ruby Sisson. Next week, I start a series of articles on the naming of Archuleta County and the family for whom it was named.