Ruby Jeanette (Horton) Berridge was born in 1908 in England and moved to British Columbia with her family in August of 1910. Her father trained for the Methodist ministry after they came to Canada and served the United Church. Ruby, one of 4 children, attended the University of British Columbia, graduating in 1930. She taught indigenous children along the British Columbia coast before she entered Church work. In 1933 for example, Ruby joined her brother Reverend Edward Horton at his Settlement charge at Giscome, BC, where she taught for a year. She also taught at Crosby Girls School in Port Simpson, (now known as Lax-Kw’alaams north of Prince Rupert.) There is evidence she was there in 1936 and possibly from 1934, under the auspices of the Woman’s Missionary Society as evidenced in this picture where she is working with Margaret Reid (Love), also a WMS Woman Worker. The Crosby Girls Home and School was an Indian Residential School. (For more on the Indian Residential Schools see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at trc.ca )
In 1938 Ruby traveled to Toronto to attend The United Church Training School and graduated in 1940. She was commissioned as a Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS) worker and from 1940 or 41 to 1944 she worked in Flin Flon, Manitoba where she was a W.M.S. Missionary at Large.
The title “Missionary at Large” often went with a vague job description from the National WMS, and the local WMS was given responsibility to provide direction for the worker. Ruby was the Assistant to the Minister at Northminster United Church in Flin Flon. This excerpt from a letter she wrote June 22, 1943 just after attending the annual meeting of Manitoba Conference, gives a sense of Ruby’s personality and clearly a sense of humour.
There was a lot of work waiting for me to do after I came back. That’s the worst of going away. Yesterday I preached at both services giving a report of the conference. I had rather a bad time as I had been afflicted with a most annoying cold for the week previous and my throat was in poor condition. But that was not the worst of it. Just as the evening service began, a most terrific thunder storm broke, the worst that I have seen since I came here. The thunder and lightning were terrible, and pretty soon the hail began drumming on the roof with a noise like artillery fire. I bellowed mightily in the Psalm “Praise the Lord with a loud voice, praise Him with the loud cymbals, praise Him with a mighty voice,” and nobody laughed because they couldn’t hear me. I just grinned to myself. As the collection was being taken the lights went out. The organist went on without a hitch and the only accident occurred when the ushers put one plate where the table wasn’t. Fortunately the soloist who came next, knew her solo by heart and the organist was also able to play the accompaniment sight unseen. In the meantime Mr. Parker leaned over and asked me whether I was “note free” enough to carry on and I said that I thought I could manage easily except that I hadn’t memorized all the figures I wanted to give. During the hymn before the sermon (hurriedly changed to Stand up for Jesus) an usher came up to ask me if I would like him to get a candle. The mental picture of me preaching by the flickering light of a candle nearly upset my gravity again but I recovered my self-control. I got through without any difficulty, but I had to take my congregation on faith. For all I know they had all sneaked out, or slept peacefully all the way through. … It was quite an experience, the first time I had read the scripture with sound effects and the first time I had preached in utter darkness.
The social formality of the 1940s saw people often addressing one another as Mr. so and so and Miss so and so, but it is also notable that while Ruby was employed and appointed by the WMS, and local committee had oversight of her work, she would have been under the direct supervision of the minister. He would have been clearly identified as her superior.
In 1944 (likely) she left Flin Flon to take up another WMS position at First United Church in Vancouver. Her work there was focused on Girls Work.
In this excerpt from a letter written by Ruby, September 7, 1945, there is another glimpse into Ruby’s character. She illustrates good people management skills in her work in leadership development.
On the whole we had 2 good camps. Dr. Rodden [the Minister at First United] said he had less worry with the Girls’ camps this year than he has ever had before – and I rather enjoyed them. For one thing the weather was exceptionally good …Then I had a good staff tho’ they were of 2 very distinct groups and at first I wondered whether I would ever get them moulded into one happy harmonious whole. I had 5 Varsity and Hi-Y girls and then several older and more experienced but less enthusiastic ones and the 2 groups were poles apart at first. However, before the camp was over we were all working together very happily. It was partly due to evening sessions in my cabin and partly to private talks with individuals. …
We celebrated VJ Day at camp and I bet the girls won’t forget it as long as they live. They wanted a snake parade and in its course, got into a hornet’s nest! The result was something very close to panic for awhile but we finally got them calmed down … we had a thanksgiving service at 8 am the next morning in our beautiful outdoor chapel. I shall not soon forget the inspiration and responsibility of conducting that service with 100 girls and 12 leaders, mostly young people themselves.
In 1948 Ruby was designated as a United Church of Canada Deaconess and assigned by the Deaconess Order to Southminster United Church in Lethbridge (48 -52), as the WMS Personnel Secretary (53) and Girls’ Work Secretary (54) in Toronto. From 1954 to 60 she served St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church in Vancouver.
In May 1961, Ruby married Stanley Berridge. She was not disjoined from the Deaconess Order for marriage because the rule forcing women to give up their status was revoked in August 1960. Stanley was a United Church minister, serving a church in Vancouver. He was a widower with 2 teenaged daughters. They had not been married very long when he was found to have a very serious mental illness and had to be institutionalized for the remainder of this life. Ruby’s older step daughter was on her own, but she raised her youngest step-daughter, 14 years old at the time of her marriage, and she thought of her as “mum”.
Ruby served at Queen’s Ave United Church in New Westminster, BC until 1964, then she returned to teaching. Ruby may have wanted to stay in the Vancouver area to be near her husband and parents and there may not have been a suitable position at the time. It is also possible that she required a greater salary than that offered Deaconesses to help in raising her step daughter. It is a decision that other Deaconesses recount.
Ruby taught at Crofton House in Vancouver, an Anglican private girls’ school. She was key support for her parents, her Father had Parkinson’s disease and died early in 1968. Her mother (Ruby with her mother) was nearly 90 at that time and lived in an apartment across the hall, but eventually moved in. She lived with Ruby until a few months before her death in 1989 at the age of 110! Ruby’s neice, Betty Nunez wrote, “I believe much of her longevity was due to my aunt’s loving care.”
Ruby died in Vancouver in Auguste 1995.
This biography written by Caryn Douglas draws on details provided by Betty Nunez, Ruby’s niece. February 7, 2012