A Tribute to Willard (Steve) Stephensen
Contributor: trishkovach Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
A Tribute to Willard (Steve) Stephensen
We were in the Grand Cayman Islands when we received word that our dear friend Steve had passed away. We were sorry it was impossible to make arrangements to return to his funeral because he had been a special person in our lives for over 30 years.
These were my first thoughts. Steve was one of the well-read, brilliant members of the Church. Wherever he and Ruth were sent throughout the world they were anchors of faith and the means of blessing untold numbers of people who were members as well as non-members.
He was a man of principle, a man of faith and a man who cared deeply about his wife, his family and those around him. He was an exceptionally good man who rose from a childhood of obscurity in the little town of Thistle, Utah to become an engineer of the first rank. He once told me that being promoted from a lowly “oiler” on a ship and ending up as a Chief Engineer was like starting out in the army as a Private and rising to the rank of Brigadier general.
Steve was as smart as Brigham Young and had just as many talents. He probably would have, in my opinion, been among the leaders in the Church had he been born during the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s leadership. He was a leader and served in many important capacities. However, the nature of his work and travel precluded him from sitting among the councils of the Brethren but the impact he had for good as he went from port to port was immeasurable.
He spent a number of years aboard ships which steamed to ports of call throughout the world. His faithful wife, Ruth, was understanding and patient and took great care of the children while he was away. Her love of the gospel, bed-rock testimony, and amazing ability to teach was a great factor in helping formulate their lives. His supportive role as a loving father and his near perfect example bonded the family together even though he was away much of the time during much of his career.
I spent many hours talking with Steve and Ruth after they settled in Provo. Over the years I kept a few notes about our conversations because they were always remarkably enlightening. Spending an hour with them was always the equivalent of taking a full semester course at BYU. Here are some of the notes I kept:
•In Thistle as a boy, Steve worked as a water boy for train crews at 10 cents an hour.
•He worked as a teen on the railroad as a section gang laborer.
•He drove a Mack Truck which he said was a “fight to run.”
•He took a course in diesel mechanics which ultimately took him to Los Angeles and then to sea.
•He took every possible Coast Guard test. I quote, ”I took the chief engineer test when I was 27 years old. The Coast Guard Commander came into the testing room and said, ‘come into my office, young man, I want to talk to you. You scored 97%. The best I have ever seen on this test. You, likewise are the youngest person I have ever tested for this examination. Congratulations.’”
•In Thistle, his family was “dirt poor.” They slept on straw mattresses on the floor of their small home.
•He was a machinist of the first order and was always on call.
•He was a certified welder and could weld anything. In Venezuela it was not uncommon for him to don a diver’s suit and dive under large ships to weld needed sections.
•His skill as a machinist was well known wherever he went. It wasn’t uncommon for companies, shop owners, and private individuals to have him make special parts even after he retired. He was the only man I ever met who could make a two headed quarter which was great when a toss of a coin determined who would buy lunch. And, he even made exact duplicates of the metal vial priesthood holders use to hold consecrated oil.
•He was a valued consultant on numerous projects related to engineering and related areas. He had more knowledge in his head than a whole school of engineers.
•He never let his mind become idle. He read everything he could get his hand on and, when his eyesight began to fail, he listened to every talking book Doug sent him.
•When Dr. Russell Nelson (who later became an Apostle) performed heart surgery on him almost 30 years ago they kept in contact every year on the anniversary of the surgery.
•He was a pilot.
•He traveled throughout the Pacific Rim on ships and visited Australia, Japan, Okinawa, Hawaii, Alaska, Trinidad, Venezuela, Panama, both sides of the Americas and a host of other countries during his working years.
•He was the equivalent of a navy commander in the Merchant Marines during World Was II and saw thousands of ships loaded and sent off for the invasion of Japan.
•In Venezuela he was the Superintendent of Marine Maintenance for his company.
•In Trinidad he was also over all marine maintenance. A very prominent position.
•He worked for Pan Am as Maintenance Supervisor for the missile tracking fleet.
•He worked on the Apollo 11 project. He was a chief photographer.
•He spent 10 years at BYU as engineering supervisor for the construction of the BYU Law School, Bean Museum, MTC, the expansion of the BYU football stadium, and numerous other projects. He, likewise, was a valued consultant on campus for the University Physical Plant.
•He left home when he was 18 years old. He was only making 35 cents and hour and felt he deserved more.
•After World Was II he was named the assistant port engineer in New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and New Jersey.
Steve never doubted the gravity of his health condition. He knew what was happening to him and knew he could depart this life at any time. He is one of the few people I have ever met who had plenty of time to prepare to transfer from this life to eternal life. He always expressed his love of Ruth and for their children. There was never a time during our visits that he failed to extol his family. He knew he was loved by all of them.
His love of the Lord and his devotion to the Church was never a question. He served in branch presidencies, bishoprics, as a teacher, leader of youth and ever a baptismal coordinator at the Provo Temple. He had deep spiritual roots.
The following is a quote from Brigham Young which is entitled “Life After Life” which reminds me of the thoughts Steve could well have had as he departed this life:
“We shall turn around and look upon it (the valley of death) and think when we have crossed it, why, this is the greatest advantage of my whole existence---for I have passed from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish, and disappointment—into a state of existence where I can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body. My spirit is set free—I thirst no more, I want to sleep no more, I tire no more, I run, I walk, I labor, I go, I come, I do this, I do that, whatever is required of me—nothing like pain or weariness—I am full of life, full of vigor, and enjoy the presence of my Heavenly Father.”
Willard Stephensen, a remarkably man in every respect, leaves a legacy his family can cherish throughout time. He was a pillar. An accomplished man who achieved and did more that he realized. His legacy of brilliance, kindness, concern, and service will certainly be recorded in the annals of Heaven. I am sure that as he passed into the portals of eternal life he was greeted with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Clark T. Thorstenson
22 April 2003
Willard A and Ruth G Stephensen Family History
Contributor: trishkovach Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Willard A. Stephensen and Ruth Glade Stephensen Family History
Willard A. Stephensen (known as Steve) and Ruth Glade were married in Salt Lake City, Utah on December 19, 1947. They went on their honeymoon to Snow Basin and then spent Christmas with their families. During the break between Christmas and New Year’s, they traveled back to New Orleans by train. On New Year's Day, they went to the Sugar Bowl game to see Tulane and Texas play football. Steve brought two blankets, one for them to sit on and one to wrap on Ruth’s legs to keep her warm. Ruth had known the quarterback, and spent the game jumping up and down screaming. Steve did not stand a chance keeping his new bride wrapped in a blanket.
Before getting married, Steve and Ruth both had places to live. Together they had found an apartment on the corner of Washington and St. Charles that Ruth moved into and began to get ready for them. It was located on the third floor of the building and was called a shotgun apartment. It was comprised of a balcony overlooking St. Charles Boulevard, the living room, a bedroom, bathroom, dining room, and the kitchen. It was called a shotgun apartment because each room was located behind the next with a long hallway that connected all of the rooms. Ruth quickly learned of Steve’s passion for tools, when he moved a workbench up the three flights of stairs and into their hallway. When he would work with his tools, the people in the apartment below would bang on the ceiling and yell at them to stop the noise. In February, they had front row seats for the Mardi Gras parade that came down Washington Avenue and turned the corner to go down St. Charles. Ruth sat on their balcony and watched the parade, while Steve worked with his tools at his workbench. They lived in this apartment for three months.
During that three months time a hurricane hit New Orleans. When Ruth arrived home from working in Dr. Phil Tiller’s office where she did lab work, the water was up to the running boards of the car. She had on new alligator shoes that she had bought for her wedding, that she refused to ruin. Taking off the shoes, she waded to the stairs that went up to their apartment and secured their home. Steve was down at the port. One of the ships in port had broken loose and floated out into the river. Steve worked with tugboats to catch the ship. When Steve finally drove home in his company owned Jeep station wagon, he could hear the exhaust bubbling out of the back of the car that was under water. The streets were flooded and streetcars had been blown off their tracks.
Steve was working as the Assistant Port Engineer for Alcoa Steamship Company in New Orleans at Number 1 Canal Street. Previously he had been the Assistant Port Engineer for Alcoa in Mobile, New York and also in San Francisco. While he was in Mobile the Port Engineer in New Orleans died of a heart attack. Alcoa flew Steve in to take over. There were three ships in port. One was on dry dock, one on the loading birth, and one on the unloading birth. His job was to take care of all of the voyage repairs. As the ships would arrive in port, the repairs needed would be reported to the port engineer who would then be responsible for completing the work before the ships would leave port. Steve was also on call to supervise repairs on disabled ships in the lower Mississippi River around New Orleans. One of the adjustments that Ruth had to make after they were married was to handle the absences that Steve’s job required of him. Since he was on call, there were times when he had to leave in the middle of the night to get to a ship in need of help. When it was possible, Ruth would go with him and hold flashlights, or just be around so that she could get out of the house and spend time together.
When Ruth found out that she was pregnant, they decided to look for a house to purchase. They found just what they were looking for at 4972 Miles Drive, Gentilly, LA. Gentilly is a suburb of New Orleans. They paid $13,000.00 for their new home. It had an “L” shaped living room and dining room that lead to the kitchen. There were two big bedrooms with a bathroom and a perfect nursery for the new baby. Steve quickly took on the projects of fencing the yard, and putting on a patio with a roof for outdoor barbecues. This time Steve had a one-car garage to hold their car and his tools.
To furnish their home, they went to Bennetts and bought a couch, two over stuffed chairs, a dining table with six chairs, and their oak bedroom set. It cost them about $3,000.00 to totally furnish their house. Steve had money saved from the war, and they could pay cash. The bedroom set had two four-drawer chests, two four-drawer nightstands and a vanity. Because it came in smaller pieces that could be combined in different groupings, it fit in all of their homes throughout their married life.
As they began to get ready for the baby’s arrival, one of Mom’s patients owned a furniture store, and they gave them a high chair for a baby gift. Ruth found a $69.00 crib for the baby, but Steve decided that he would make one. He bought a $300.00 lathe, and all of the other tools he needed to complete the crib. The crib was beautiful. As a trade off, Steve bought a sewing machine for Ruth. She began to make clothes, quilts, and all of the things she and the baby would need.
Ruth worked up to her last doctor’s appointment three weeks before her baby was born. In that appointment he told her that she had to have the baby immediately or have a Caesarian section in three weeks. He induced her labor at that visit, and Ruth went home. She called Steve to let him know that she would be having the baby shortly and to make sure that he was within radio distance. Twenty minutes later, he came running in the door to find Ruth calmly knitting in a chair. Ruth asked what in the world he was doing home early. The labor pains did not begin until midnight, and Steve took her to the hospital at 6:00 am. Steve was allowed to stay with her until they took her into the delivery room, then started to pace for the next two hours. Margaret Ann Stephensen was born later that afternoon on September 14, 1948. They loved that name and had planned on calling her “Peggy” from day one. If she had been a boy, she would have been called Douglas Glade Stephensen. They called their parents to let them know she had arrived. She was born on a Tuesday, and Steve was assigned to talk that Sunday as a member of the Branch Presidency. Sunday afternoon he was called out to rescue an overturned plane that crashed in the swamp. He came home covered with mud and very late. He quickly changed. During his talk he announced that Peggy had been born and no one could believe that Ruth had been pregnant. She never had to wear maternity clothes. After Peggy was born, Steve’s sister Evelyn came down to help for a few weeks with the baby.
Ruth quit her job and stayed home to take care of her family. She loved being a Mom and Peggy was a great deal of fun to take care of each day. In December, Steve was asked to work out of the home office in New York City. He left for New York City, while Ruth stayed home to get ready for Christmas. Steve flew in several days after Christmas and they celebrated the holiday late.
After Christmas, Steve flew back and looked in the general area to find a house. He took pictures and sent them back for Ruth to help decide what to buy. He found a new house at 2088 Mountain Avenue in Scott Plains, New Jersey. To get to work Steve would have a 34-mile commute from their home to Jersey City, then he could take a ferry across the Hudson River and walk the five blocks to the White Hall Building where his office was located on the twenty-six floor. The house was the first one built in a new development. In April of 1949, Ruth began the drive to New Jersey in their car with Peggy. She had a baby seat in the front of the car, and set up a sleeping area in the back seat. It took several days to travel to Washington, DC, where Steve met them and helped drive the rest of the way.
Their new house was two stories with a basement. It had two large bedrooms and one smaller bedroom and a bathroom on the second floor. The main floor had a living room, dining room, a half bath, sun porch and a kitchen. The basement had the food storage, a deep freeze and a laundry room. Steve finished the rest of the basement as his workshop. He built the workbench and tool cupboards that he used for the rest of his life. It was here that he built the mahogany coffee table that they used in their living room for so many years.
Ruth found out that she was pregnant with their second child. The doctors let her know that her uterus had collapsed and that she and her child were in danger. They were able to correct the problem, but the danger of it collapsing again was very high. She had other problems in additions to these.
Their branch was thirty-eight miles from their house. With the problems that Ruth was having she could not go to church with her baby. Steve would go to church for Sunday school, Sacrament and Mutual each week. Living in New Jersey became very lonely for Ruth. Steve would leave at five minutes before eight in the morning and would get home at seven in the evening.
In November of 1949, Steve was given a temporary assignment to relieve the Superintendent Marine Engineer in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It was to last two months, which would mean that he would be back a month before their baby was due. When Steve got down there he arrived to a strike of 300 workers that needed to be settled. In the process of his work, he found that they had dead men on the payroll, and the Plant Foreman was accepting bribes. The Manager fired the old Superintendent Engineer, the Foreman and the Supervisor of the plant. Steve changed the payroll process, began clean up which kept him there for five months. By then the President of Alcoa had decided to keep him on permanently.
Ruth tried calling her dad to ask if she could come home to have her baby, since she was alone with Peggy. He felt that she should stay there with her doctors. Ruth then called her friend in Washington DC to come to stay for the two weeks before her baby was due and a few weeks after she had arrived. She went into labor at two in the morning, and waited until 7:30 in the morning to call a neighbor to take her to the hospital. As she got in the car, the neighbor told her to get a map out of the glove compartment to find the way to the hospital, which was twenty-five miles away. Ruth just about died. When she finally figured out how to get there, the neighbor told her that they were already there, he had just wanted to keep her occupied during the trip.
As part of the check-in procedure, they took her wedding rings. In the delivery room she had three gynecologists, a proctologist, and a cardiologist because they were expecting the worst. Ruth came through the delivery just great, and Douglas Glade Stephensen was born on the afternoon of February 15, 1950. Ruth sent a cable to Steve saying, ”Douglas Glade Stephensen arrived February 15, 1950, everything OK.” Steve responded back with “Thank you for the safe arrival of our little engineer.” Ruth ran into trouble with the administrators of the hospital when they told her that she could not get Doug circumcised without a signed approval from the child’s father. After many arguments that the father was in Trinidad and that he was her baby too, they finally agreed. When it was time to go home, Ruth called her Bishop who came with his wife to pick them up. Since there had been no sign of wedding rings, visitors or a husband during this period, the nurses all thought that she was an unwed mother.
From the time that Doug was born, he had colic. He would scream for twenty hours at a time, stopping only to drink his bottles. When the doctors checked him, they told her that he was fine and would one-day just stop crying. Ruth paid a photographer to come to the house to take a picture to send to Steve. Doug looked so ugly in it, that Ruth was afraid that Steve would not come back to get them. Peggy loved being a big sister. She helped rock the baby, and did all of the things that Ruth would allow. As Steve was on his way home, he called from Miami, and heard Doug screaming in the background. When he heard what was going on, he promptly hired a nurse to help take care of the children. He could not believe that she had survived till then. This not only gave Ruth a break but also helped facilitate the childcare while they were packing their home.
A shipment of their things was sent on to Trinidad, and they went to Salt Lake City to visit the family. Included in the shipment was their old deep freeze, and a brand new washing machine and water heater which Steve had already discovered were unknown items in the Islands. To allow them to make the trips, the doctors gave Ruth medication to help Doug sleep on the plane. Once in Utah, every time they took him out in the cold air, he cried and cried. When they left Salt Lake, they flew to Chicago, New York, and then changed planes to fly down to Trinidad. The plane stopped at each island in the Caribbean on their way. The trip took thirty-three hours, with Doug crying any time that he was not drugged asleep. During the flight Ruth changed Doug and Peggy into summer clothes to get ready for the tropical climate. Ruth was dressed in long-sleeve wool dress with a coat with a large fur collar when they arrived in the tropics. They had arrived on the Island of Trinidad in May of 1950.
The car that they had been promised was not at the airport, but instead was being used by someone else who was also staying in the place that they were to have used. A Company official took them to the Queens Park Hotel where they had connecting rooms. Ruth put Doug and Peggy into the bed in one room with a mosquito net covering them. All she had left to dress Doug in were pink pajamas. This seemed the biggest failure of all to Ruth. In spite of the color of Doug’s pajamas, both children fell right to sleep. Ruth and Steve crashed in the bed next door with the door open a crack to hear the children. It was then that Ruth discovered a fear of being enclosed by mosquito netting. She tried to sleep with her face out the edge, but found her face covered in bugs. When she finally went to sleep, she did not wake up until the next day. Ruth and Steve panicked over the kids and upon rushing to their bedside, found both still asleep. The day of “no crying” had finally arrived. From that day forward, Doug was a wonderfully happy baby. No one could resist him.
During the first week they went looking for houses and rented one on 63 Cascade Road. When the previous Superintendent Engineer was fired, Steve had hired his housekeeper, Sandra Chilberry. Upon finding a house, Sandra promptly hired a nurse named Irene and a wash woman to do the laundry. The shipment from New Jersey had arrived which had 26 cases of baby food and evaporated milk for Doug to drink. Steve installed temporary plumbing hoses to operate the washer and water heater. These were installed in the dining room, which was the only available room that would hold them. Ruth disguised them by putting a lovely linen tablecloth over them to make them look like a sideboard. The servants, who had never seen a washing machine became so excited by watching the clothes go around, that they would save loads of clothes to be done during dinner parties. Ruth soon learned that the additional household status was worth her humiliation for having her laundry done during dinner parties so the guests could see this wonderful sight. The appliances were left on show and the linen tablecloth was just used for the dinner table.
The Island of Trinidad was part of the British Colonies, and ruled by the Governing General, Lord Rance. The people on the island were made up of two hundred natives to every one white person. The Island customs were based on status, not race. Most of the whites were there in conjunction with the American naval base that was located on the island or the people representing the English government. One of the first things that Ruth had to learn was the customs for dealing with those that had been hired to work at the house. They all called her Madam Stephensen when addressing her. Having come from New Orleans where a “Madam” was the person who ran a house of ill repute, she asked that they call her Mrs. Stephensen. Unfortunately, none of them would do it. When she asked the reason why, she was told that “Madam” was the wife of the husband and a “Mrs.” was the mistress. Ruth quickly agreed to be a “Madam” while living on the Island.
She also learned about the dress of the servants. Sandra had a “uniform” that she wore. It was a dark dress with an apron and a hat similar to what nurses wore at that time. Irene used to wear a big hat with flowers and fruit on it. Ruth requested that hats not be worn in the house, and was told that it was a sign of disrespect for a servant to be in the presence of the housewife without their heads covered. Irene’s hat was all she had to wear. Ruth bought material and allowed Sandra to sew new clothes for the entire group of woman. She bought beautiful aprons for them to wear to keep their dresses neat and Sandra made them hats like hers to wear that were not so large. To Ruth’s surprise, she became the talk of the town by providing the clothes for them to wear, most employers did not put themselves out enough to help servants clothe themselves.
Ruth also tried to teach them personal hygiene. One of the women smelled so bad that it was hard to be in the same room with her. Ruth talked to Sandra and asked that they all start using deodorant. She offered by buy some, but Sandra asked instead if it was permissible for her to have some dried bread. Ruth agreed and found that Sandra would heat the dried bread and made the women stand with the bread under their arms and their arms held again their sides each morning. To Ruth’s surprise it worked.
Another change that Ruth made was to raise all the women’s pay. Sandra was raised from six dollars Bewee a month or $3.60 American dollars, to $30.00 Bewee which was $18.00 a month. She became the queen of the housekeepers and the best paid. Many of the households would keep all of the cupboards in the kitchen and anything of value in the house locked. The housewife would keep all of the keys on a ring on her belt, and open the cupboards to get out only those things that were needed and then would lock them. Ruth never locked anything. She felt that if you paid your servants enough that they could live and feed themselves then they were good people and would not steal. To everyone’s surprise, Ruth had some of the most devoted servants on the island. Even Lady Rance came to ask Ruth how she kept her servants for so long and why she could trust them so much.
Ruth also was quick to tell Sandra that the women in the kitchen would eat the same food as the family would eat. She became very upset when she went into the kitchen and found the women eating fish heads while the family had fish fillets for dinner. When she objected Sandra explained to Ruth that she was throwing out the best part of the fish. They would fight over who would get to eat the eyeballs. Ruth agreed that she would be extra generous by giving her servants the fish heads from that time forward instead of letting the family eat them.
Early in the first week there, Sandra came to Ruth to let her know that the fish seller was in the neighborhood with some lovely fish and shrimp. She requested that she be allowed to buy some for the meals. Ruth agreed that they should get some and hurried to the cart waiting out front. She quickly learned that something was wrong, and discovered that only those housewives who do not trust the judgment of their housekeeper ever interceded with the buying of the food. Sandra had been belittled and her feelings were hurt. From that point on, Ruth learned to talk over with Sandra what was needed for meals during the week, then gave her the money she said would be needed to purchase the items. Once a week Sandra would “make market” and get the food. She would bargain with the fish seller, the coconut seller, and the owners of the stalls at the market. She also discovered that she saved a lot of money when Sandra did the bargaining, since she always could get a lower price.
Sandra did however have to learn the value of a freezer. Never having seen a freezer, she was leery of how good they could be. Ruth had to teach her to buy a bushel of shrimp when the prices were good and package them for the freezer. Sandra could not believe that they would come out tasting as good as when they went in. Meals consisted mainly of seafood, poultry and fresh vegetables and fruits. There was a rule on the island that cattle could not be slain until they were old, consequently the meat available was very tough. When they did get meat, Sandra would wrap it in Plantain leaves and let it sit. Ruth discovered that meat tenderizers are made from plantain leaves, and Sandra just was going to the source. Ruth decided that the chicken coups would only be used for pets, and found a poultry farm where she could order the chickens live and they would kill and pluck them for her. Sandra went the first time to “feel” the chicken before they were prepared. She was not sure that Ruth would get good plump ones. Once she discerned that they were all grown to be plump, Ruth was allowed to order ahead and they were ready and waiting when Sandra arrived to pick them up. Ruth also talked the owner of the poultry farm to carry turkeys for the holidays. She agreed to get the American housewives to order their birds from them in exchange for the service. This allowed Ruth to keep the American traditions going in their home. Lamb was available that was imported from Australia.
Ruth also had to learn how childcare was done in the Islands. Each afternoon, the children were dressed in their best clothes for the nurse to take them to the “Savannah.” The Savannah was a green park area that was found in most neighborhoods. Theirs also had the local horse track for racing. This was where the children would play games with each other. It was a time for the nurses to show off their children and demonstrate how well they had trained them. Ruth and Irene had their first disagreement when she dressed Doug in the prettiest dress that she could find to show the new baby off. Ruth was determined that her son would not be shown off in a dress no matter what the traditions were on the Island. She convinced Irene to start a new fashion trend with small shorts and tops or sun suits that Ruth made and had embroidered with the local work that was on so many local clothes. They became so popular that the owner of the local children’s clothes store came by and asked for a copy of her patterns to have them made locally and add to their children's line of clothes. Ruth was happy to oblige so that Irene could gain “status” and Doug would fit in better. She also showed her rebellion by letting the children sit at the dinner table in their high chair. Children were always fed in the kitchen and were not allowed at the table. Ruth liked the family to get together at mealtime and would not relent. They compromised by Ruth or Irene feeding the babies in the kitchen and when the children were ready to eat regular food, they were allowed to eat at the table with the family.
Another family tradition that began in Trinidad was having family pets. One day a large stray dog came up to the door in the dining room. Peggy was sitting in her high chair between Ruth and Steve, but saw the dog standing in the doorway and began to scream hysterically. Ruth was so surprised at how frightened she was, so she decided to get a family dog. The local vet told Ruth about a new litter of dachshund puppies ready for placement in homes. They took Peggy down to choose a family dog. Since then there has always been at least one family dog. The first dog was a black dog named “Gretchen,” who was hit by a car, and then they bought “Becky.” Becky was part of our family for many years.
Ruth also had to decide how she would incorporate the local way of living with her life style. Many of the women spent all of their time playing bridge each day, turning the childcare over to their nurses. At night they would socialize. Ruth decided that she would rather spend her time with her family. She spent most days with the children. She loved to take them on rides around the island looking at the animals. They went to the officers club at the Naval Base and swam on the beach. There was a little stand that served hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and they would make a day of it. She sewed clothes for the kids and herself, and enjoyed her hobbies. Although Steve had to entertain many of the ship officers when they arrived in port, they decided to limit their entertaining to a few nights a week. Many times the captains would bring their wives and Ruth would have to take them around to the shops on the island. Their lifestyle was not the “normal” way to live, but what they felt it was the right thing for their family. Ruth agreed to be a substitute member of the bridge club, and would play about once a week. She also learned to love the china and crystal that was in the island stores from around the world.
During their stay in Trinidad, Ruth and Steve lived in several houses. The first house was at #7 Gray Street. It had a living room, dining room, kitchen and 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a garage that held Steve’s tools and car. Outside there was a separate building with two bedrooms and a bathroom, where Sandra and Irene lived. All others servants they hired lived in their own homes.
It was in this home that Doug got lost. The house sat at the top of a small hill. A block away was a sweety shop. Irene would take the children for walks and would sometimes stop at the sweety shop for a treat of candy or a drink of lemonade. When Doug was eight and a half months old, the servants came to Ruth and told her that they had lost the baby. After checking the house, Ruth sent the servants out in several directions since Doug was now walking. He was found in the sweety shop holding out his little hand for a treat. After that, everyone kept a closer eye on him.
The first Christmas they had on the island took place here. Alcoa shipped in Christmas trees from Canada. Ruth decorated the tree with all of her beautiful ornaments and lights. She draped the ice cycles all over the tree, one at a time and no one could believe how beautiful it looked. One day before Christmas had arrived, a breeze was blowing through the windows and picked up the tree and blew it out of the plate glass window in the living room and down the steps to the driveway. Many of Ruth’s decorations were smashed. She had the tree brought back inside and secured. She redecorated it, but this time she just threw the tinsel on in bunches. This was an unforgivable sin in our home and showed her level of frustration.
After Ruth and Steve fixed up that home, the owner was running for political office and decided that it would look good for him to move into it. Steve was off the island on a business trip when he told Ruth she needed to move out. Ruth looked around and moved into 11 Elizabeth Street. When she picked up Steve at the airport, she told him she had another stop to make before they went home. She drove him to the new house and broke the news that they had been kicked out while he was gone. This became one of Ruth’s favorite houses. It had a large living room at the front of the house with windows all around. Outside there was a wide walkway around the windows with big hanging baskets of fern. The breezes would blow through the room and it was delightful to use. There was a portico out in front of the house so that you would not get wet when entering the house during the regular afternoon rainstorms. There was also a dining room, study kitchen and bathroom. In the upstairs, there were four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Located outside was also a servant's quarters and a garage for Steve’s tools and room for their car. Ruth enjoyed giving luncheons where she could seat 64 people in tables on the walkway around the living room for luncheon and then serve tea inside. Steve’s brother Grant was stationed for part of the time to the Navel base. During that time he used one of the bedrooms upstairs.
One day Steve came home and told Ruth that he wanted to take her to see something special. He took her to the car dealer to see a maroon with black convertible top. It was an Austin A40 Sports coupe. Ruth had been told by her mother never to tell a husband that he could not have a new car. Steve decided that they would turn in Ruth’s favorite car her little Morris Minor. Steve said that it was a big mistake for him to have done.
During this time Ruth realized that she was pregnant again. There was a nine-bed hospital on the island with a very good doctor on staff. She went to him and he verified that she was pregnant. She warned him that the doctors in New Jersey had told her that if she ever got pregnant again that it would kill her. He told her that he did not do abortions, and Ruth answered, “Good, neither do I, but I thought you would want to know what we are about to face.” She found that she dropped unconscious quite often, so she had to be very careful and spent most of her pregnancy lying down.
In Trinidad, Steve was working with the ships that Alcoa would send down to British Guinea. The ships would be half filled with ore because of the low draft on the unimproved bar, and then come to Trinidad where they would “top off “ the load from barges which had been filled from shuttle ships. In 1951, after they had been on the island for about a year, Steve was told about a project that had begun in the jungles of Venezuela with US Steel. They were looking for a Superintendent of the Marine Basin and the job could be Steve’s if he wanted it. After flying to Venezuela to check into the project, Ruth and Steve decided that this would be the best move for them. Unfortunately, President ??? was assassinated then, and the project was delayed. As his job wound down in Trinidad, he had to find alternate work until the political problems could be resolved. During this time he took the position of Chief Engineer on the Alcoa Planter and then on a passenger ship called the Cavalier. He left to go to Venezuela in January of 1952, leaving Ruth on the Island of Trinidad until their baby could be born.
Karen Born 8-10-53
9-53 Villa Santa Maria de Jesus
10-53 Boarding House
Mom moved 10-53