The people behind the names: Ruby Sisson

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
J.M. and Eudvigas Salazar, members of the pioneer Archuleta family for whom Archuleta County is named.

We are writing about Ruby Sisson — school teacher, rancher and community benefactor. Her contributions to the community, especially the library, were so significant the library is named Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library in her honor.

The source of much of the information we know about “Miss Ruby” is Mamie Lynch, author of an article about Miss Ruby contained in “Remembrances,” a series of books concerning local history preserved in the Hershey History Collection at the library.

Continuing from last week:

“Mrs. Sisson died August 23, 1985, while convalescing at the home of Doug and Mamie Lynch.

“Mamie is the trustee of Ruby’s will and it is her responsibility to distribute the income from the estate according to the will.

“The provisions of the will clearly show just how thoughtful and generous Miss Ruby was. She provided various amounts of money to six public or civic organizations.”

“I had her in the hospital a couple of times,” Mamie wrote. “She complained about not being able to swallow. The doctors could not find anything wrong with her so we brought her to our house and this was where she died. The night before she died, I was sitting by her bed giving her a drink of water and she said, ‘You won’t be mad at me if I die, will you?’ I said, ‘No Ruby. Not if that is what you want.’

“Earlier that summer I had asked her if she had a will. She answered that she had no will but her money would be taken care of by Robert Lindner. She had sold her ranch to Robert Lindner. I said, ‘Ruby you can’t do that. You decide where your money should go.’ There were some nieces and nephews but she did not want her money to go to any of them. I told her that if she didn’t have a will, her estate would go through probate and her money might go to people and places that she did not approve of. She agreed that it would be a good idea to talk to local attorney Earl Hoover about what she wanted done with her estate. She was living at the ranch at this time. I took Earl to visit with her and invited some neighbors to sit in. She talked to Earl alone and explained to him that she wanted her money to be used to help people. She decided that she wanted 50 percent of the proceeds of her estate to go to a scholarship fund to help students who had graduated from Pagosa Springs High School. Dr. Frank Oppenheimer had been a neighbor of Ruby’s and had established a museum in San Francisco, called the Exploratorium. Ruby was an admirer of Frank and what he had done and she wanted 20 percent of her money to go to his museum. She also wanted to help the Community United Methodist Church and the library and the emergency medical technicians. She wanted to help build a hospital, but she stipulated that if the building was not started within two years after her death the money was to be used for another purpose, at my discretion. The building was not started within two years and I decided that the money would go to a library. The net result is 50 percent went to the high school scholarship fund, 20 percent to the Exploratorium, 15 percent to the library, 10 percent to the United Methodist Church of Pagosa Springs, and 5 percent to the Upper San Juan Emergency Medical Technicians. She asked me to set up a committee to oversee the scholarship fund.”

To be completed next week.