Ruby Mae (James) Zabel was born to Frank Howard and Elsie May (Neel) James on October 23, 1920 at her parents’ rural farm home northwest of Western, Olive Precinct, Saline County, Nebraska. She was the third child of four born to the James. She was baptized on August 14, 1921, at the Methodist Church of Western by H. W. Wagner on the same day that her sister Mabel Marie died.
In March of 1926 the family moved to Atlanta Precinct where she attended one year of school at District #77. On March 7, 1927, the family moved to their recently purchased 80-acre farm southwest of Western in South Fork Precinct. Here she attended school District #36 through eighth grade. She graduated with the class of 1938 from Western High School.
Her transportation to high school were Model-T Ford coupe cars driven on 4-1/2 miles of dirt roads. When it rained this meant muddy roads for there was no gravel. She drove on roads with hills to climb and watery low places to go through sometimes just missing the ditch. Driving in low caused the alcohol in the radiator to boil and the low band in the transmission to be tightened or replaced. Gas cost between 12-1/2 to 15 cents per gallon. Candy bars cost 1 cent at the Brown Store and she bought many to eat on the way home.
She loved the great outdoors and the farm animals became her friends, especially horses. She had a dream of raising, breaking and riding her own colt. This was done after the age of 60.
After graduation she helped on the family farm and worked at Bright’s IGA Grocery Store in Western and in Fairbury at Hinnen’s Store, Montgomery Ward Store and the Green Lantern Café.
She lived through the Dirty Thirties, the Great Depression and World War II. She had countless detailed memories of the difficult times growing up on the family farm. She wrote a daily letter to a soldier friend in Guam.
On December 12, 1945, she married Harold M. Zabel after he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force. They lived on the Zabel family farm and enjoyed 63 years together.
Being a farm wife kept her busy helping her husband with the livestock, field work and grain hauling to elevators at harvest time. She raised chickens 50 out of 51 years for meat and eggs. She washed baskets full of eggs because they were worth 2 cents more a dozen if cleaned. For a short time, she was paid 50 cents a dozen (1970). Then the price dropped, and eggs and later chickens were on the way out.
She planted a garden and did a lot of canning. She enjoyed African violets and she was faithful in writing in her daily diary which she started in 1965. In her work of writing her memories she wore out four typewriters. A computer was purchased when typewriters were no longer available, and she continued writing. She enjoyed ballroom and square dancing.
She collected horse items, dolls (many she had made). Other hobbies included crafts of all kinds, needlework, quilts and quilting and photography. Some items were entered at the Jefferson County Fair and were awarded many first-place ribbons. Some of the crafts were given to family members as gifts. She attended many craft and flea markets and household auctions.
Because of her interest in Genealogy a second cousin was located. For over 80 years the two families lived 80 miles apart but neither knew about the other. Family pictures over 100 years old were seen for the first time. Since then they have kept in touch getting to know one another.
After her husband passed away in 2008 her faithful dog went with her to the barn to feed the horse. The animals gave her support and comfort in her time of need. After the dog died the horse soon followed. One morning the horse came to be fed. She whinnied at Ruby and before she could get feed in the bucket, the horse walked a short distance away and went down for her time had come. Ruby found out how lonely a farmyard can be without animals. A year later a little yellow kitten walked into her life. What joy that cat was to her.
Memory is the power of recalling past events and retaining the in order to pass along to others our experiences. Most of our lives are spent in the act of remembering. It is a priceless joy and one that should be shared.
She is survived by her son Dennis and his wife Becky of Daykin, a granddaughter, Sara Sunderland and her husband, Greg of Orinda, CA, great grandchildren Kamden Mabon of Orinda, CA, Kayla Mabon and fiancée Mason Carey of Kansas City, KS, Kinzie Mabon of Lincoln, NE, and Slater and Zach Sunderland of Orinda, CA, her sister, Ruth Reckling of Mount Vernon, IA, her sister-in-law, Ruth Schmidt, of Fairbury, her cousin Virginia Roe of Superior, and nieces and nephews.
Preceding her in death by her husband, her parents, one sister and one brother.
Written by Ruby Zabel in 2015
Services will be held at Gerdes-Meyer Funeral Home in Fairbury at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday June 23, 2018. The family will greet visitors on Friday June 22, 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Gerdes-Meyer. Memorials to family choice.