Educator, woman of faith, devoted wife, sister, aunt. Born Sept. 25, 1905, in Bowmanville, Ont. Died Oct. 5, 2011, in Toronto of natural causes, aged 106.
For 20 years, Ruth Major taught mentally and physically challenged students in a Toronto elementary school with love, compassion and encouragement. Some of her former students kept in touch with her even to her 100th year.
Ruth Isabella Mary Grigg was born in 1905, the youngest of two children of David and Jessie Grigg. She graduated from Bowmanville High School in 1923, her report cards and awards attesting to her brilliance as a student.
Ruth studied piano and music theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music, receiving high honours. She enjoyed plays and in her youth performed in amateur productions of As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Destined to become a teacher like her sister, Jane, Ruth studied at teacher’s college in Toronto. Passionate about her role as an educator, for Ruth marriage came later in life. In 1945, at age 40, she married William Major, a lawyer nine years her senior whom she had met at Danforth United Church. After she married, she left her teaching career.
Ruth and Bill travelled extensively to Western Canada, Bermuda and Europe. They always lived together in one house with Jane, her husband, Duncan, and their daughter, Heather, who grew up with two sets of parents in one home. While Ruth had no children of her own, her many great-nieces and -nephews, cherished friends of all ages and Heather, in particular, were her treasures.
After Bill died in 1977, Ruth decided she would get on with her life: “I have just made up my mind to be happy.” With the help of her strong Christian faith, she pressed on, keeping busy with church volunteer activities, committee meetings and the Christian Endeavour auxiliary group.
Ruth cared for Jane, who suffered from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, with great compassion until her death in 1993.
Well into her 80s, Ruth retained a driver’s licence, regularly taking a written test. She vehemently disagreed that when merging onto a highway you had to match the speed of traffic. Certainly a full stop was best.
She had her eccentricities. She was a woman of style and loved smart, but not extravagant, clothes. When she bought a new car, she always bought a new outfit.
At Christmas, Ruth always bought Heather clothing. These gifts were always successful, as Ruth had the same item in other sizes and colours out in the car to ensure the right fit and match.
Healthy throughout her life, Ruth never had to take medication until the end. Only old age finally caught up with her. She lived her life with grace, dignity, courage and compassion, leaving a legacy that will be hard to match.
By Keith Pond, a family member through marriage.