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Ruby Hicks

Obituary of Ruby Hicks

During the celebrations for her 100th birthday, Ruby Hicks was asked to suggest the secret to her longevity. “To not give up,” came the firm reply. “To not start something and quit.” The surviving member of a family of 13 children died May 15, just five days shy of her 101st birthday, and no-one who met her at any point in her long life would ever characterize her as being a quitter. Ruby was the youngest child born to former Alderville First Nation Chief Moses Muskrat Marsden and Nellie Orma Franklin, and the only one of her siblings born in a hospital. She grew up in Lakefield after her parents left the reserve near Cobourg, and remained in the area most of her life, including the last nine years as a resident of Peterborough Retirement Residence, formerly Peterborough Manor. She was the oldest citizen of Alderville First Nation, and the only member of any of the seven Williams Treaty First Nations who was alive when the treaty came into effect in 1923, and still living when a settlement was finally negotiated in 2018. From her earliest job working as a babysitter for an Anglican minister in Lakefield, she was a wage-earner for the next 50 years, including stints as a seamstress in a garment factory in Toronto, where she married Harold Switzer and gave birth to Maurice, her only child. When she returned from Toronto as a single mother, she got a job measuring draperies for Cherney’s furniture store in downtown Peterborough, and working on production lines in the former Peterborough plants of Outboard Marine Corporation and the Canadian General Electric Company. She and Maurice lived with her parents in a pebbled fieldstone home built by her father on the east side of Lakefield. There was no central heating, running water, or indoor plumbing. She recalled giving her parents $5 of her $12 weekly earnings for room and board, and paying another $3 for weekly bus fare to work. Ruby’s birth certificate listed only one given name, but she took it upon herself to add the middle name “Alma” to some documents after fellow high school students teased her about not having one. She acquired a new last name after marrying Arthur Hicks, a Royal Navy veteran of World War II whom she had met while still in Toronto, and with whom she lived happily for over 30 years before he died of heart failure in the kitchen of the modest two-storey house they bought and remodelled on Fitzgerald St. near Lakefield’s fairgrounds. Over their years together, that home was the scene of many happy gatherings of family and friends, but after Art’s death Ruby decided that she no longer wanted to worry about replacing shingles or repairing doors. She moved to a seniors’ apartment on the other side of the village, located on the grounds that had previously been occupied by the elementary school that she and her son had both attended, and where both had been taught by the same Grade One teacher, Miss Elsie Kidd. Royal Canadian Legion Branch 77 in Lakefield conferred an honourary lifetime membership on her in recognition of hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and she was still playing in cribbage and euchre tournaments as she approached 90. She also volunteered to read and spend time with patients in a private hospital in the village, just as she had with wounded veterans in Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital following World War II. During her last few months, Ruby frequently reminisced about her parents, fondly giving credit to a strict but kind father, and a mother who was 43 when she brought her into the world, and who nursed her through a bout of life-threatening childhood diphtheria. While not a church-goer, she practised a personal creed of “being kind to other people, and helping others whenever possible.” “We don’t need to have religion to love anyone,” she was fond of saying. She doted on her offspring, and made many personal sacrifices for the benefit of son Maurice Switzer, North Bay, and grandson Capt. Adin Switzer (Wendy), Wooler. Nothing pleased her more than visits from great-granddaughter Olivia Switzer (Ryan Chabassol), Trenton, and great-grandson Capt. Jacob Switzer (Jordee Matson), Colorado Springs. Due to visiting restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruby never got to hold her great-great-granddaughter Adeline Margaret-Marie Chabassol, born in January to Olivia and Ryan, but seeing photos brought broad smiles to her face. Ruby enjoyed regular visits from nephew Jim Marsden and nieces Orma Hogarth and Vera Melanbacher – all of Lakefield – and niece Marlene Quesnel, of Peterborough. In addition to her parents, Moses and Nellie Marsden and husband Art, Ruby was predeceased by sisters Elsie, Esther, Mildred, Winnifred, Katie, Jessy, and Vera, and brothers Cecil, Larry, Fred, Percy, and Jim. Her elderly years were made more comfortable by the care and kindness she received from all the staff and friends at Peterborough Retirement Residence. Funeral arrangements were provided by The Hendren Funeral Homes, Lakefield Chapel, who honoured family wishes to forego visitations and services due to the COVID pandemic. Ruby will rest beside her beloved Art at Rosemount Memorial Gardens in Peterborough. A celebration of her life for family and friends is tentatively planned for this coming fall. If desired, memorial donations may be made to an animal rescue of one's choosing.
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