Ruth Anne Gilbride was born at the beginning of the Great Depression in the United States. Like her brother Jackie (John Robert) before her she was born in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn at 442-53rd Street. Her father was Charles Francis Gilbride who worked everyday during the depression at Todd Shipyards in the Redhook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Mrs. Catherine Gilbride (nee Collins) had sixteen (16) births while married to her husband Charles Francis. Of these 16 births, eleven (11) children survived. They were Charles (Charlie); Muriel Hynes; Rita Pallay; Patrick (Packie); William (Billy); Frank (Frankie); Thomas Aquinas (Tommy); John Robert (Jackie); Kenneth Joseph (Kenny); Ruth (Ruthie) and Janet Murphy.
All of the Gilbride men served in the United States military during the Second World War and Jackie the youngest continued on into the Korean conflict. Aunt Ruth as she was lovingly known to more than twenty-one (21) nieces and nephews would say in conversation: “Call me Ruthie.” She would explain that in the Gilbride Family everyone was called by the Irish-style of adding the “ie or y” to their name. Aunt Ruth started working just out of Saint Brendan’s High School at Kentile Floors in Brooklyn where she made a very good impression upon her boss Mr. Kennedy. She stayed at her job for more than forty (40) years. She was forced to retire in the 1970’s when Kentile faced economic disaster with the addition of asbestos to the popular floor tiles. Only recently the famous Kentile sign in Brooklyn has been taken down. Though she was born in the Sunset Park neighborhood, her father moved the family to a larger house in Flatbush. It was located on East 10th Street between Avenues O and P. Ruthie had many memories of the house on East 10th Street. She remembered receiving letters from her brothers serving in the war known as “v-mail” which were of course censored. She remembered her mother having a piano and having people into the house. Mr. Gilbride was called “da-da” by all the children in the Irish fashion
Even in Ruthie’s final days she would refer to her father as da-da. One of Aunt Ruth’s favorite reminiscences of her father was that he claimed the Scotch were the absolute best shipbuilders in the world. Aunt Ruth would always advise me as a young man to “drink scotch” because that’s what doctors drink. Another favorite reminiscence of Aunt Ruth involved Uncle Packie. Ruthie claimed that one time her father da-da came home from work and said to a young Uncle Packie go and pour out the beer. Young Patrick taking his father literally went to the kitchen of the East 10th Street house and proceeded to pour down the drain the beer her father was intent on enjoying. Ruthie always had a good laugh over that story.
Another famous family story was of my own father Thomas Aquinas who was going to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers just when the Second World War broke out. Besides practicing his pitching arm at the Polo Grounds he would have “a catch” with his sister Ruthie. Ruthie would complain to me many many years later that he threw the ball so hard it really stung her hand. She confided to me that he was her favorite brother and affectionately called him by his initials TAG and her initials were RAG.
Until shortly near her final days Aunt Ruth lived in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. She was a parishioner of Saint Bernadette’s Parish and a faithful mass goer; not just on Sundays. She also liked St. Anselm’s Church and St. Patrick’s Church where many of her family members were parishioners. She was proud of being a “Columbiette” at Saint Bernadette’s . Ruth was both a great walker and a great talker. Up until almost her 90th year she would think nothing of walking more than a mile to visit me in Bay Ridge rather than taking a bus.
In her early years Aunt Ruthie was a great traveler. She had a traveling companion Margaret McKeef. They would travel all over. Ruthie went to Ireland, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii and many many times to Florida.
Aunt Ruth (Ruthie) was baptized in Saint Michael’s Church in Sunset Park. And loved to visit Visitation Parish in Redhook, Brooklyn which was built and supported by many of the Gilbride Family when Todd Shipyards was flourishing during the Second World War. Ruthie would recount her visit to Visitation Church and how when she said her name was Gilbride they warmly welcomed her. The first mass in the parish of Visitation in Red Hook, Brooklyn was offered in the Gilbride’s home. Ruthie would recount to me later in her life how her father Charles Francis and his brother Patrick were best friends and would frequently get together on Sundays to go for clams on the beach. She would tell me that in those days not everyone had a car.
In the summer during the 1930’s and 40’s Ruthie’s mother would go with the children to a summer bungalow near the beach in Staten Island. Of course there was no Verrazano Bridge in the those days; the crossing to Staten island was accomplished by ferry.
Ruthie in her final days recounted many stories to me, her nephew, of life on East 10th Street in Flatbush. She said she would worry at night especially during the blackouts that German bombers would come to New York and her brother Jackie who was a warden would calm her by saying the German’s didn’t have planes as good as the Americans. Ruthie recounted listening soothingly to the chanting of Jewish men on the Sabbath in Flatbush. She would tell me later it was nice. She said there was a Jewish family across the street and she would babysit for the young children during the War.
Though it’s not possible to say what Ruthie thought of all the politicians she had seen come and go in her life she remained a staunch Republican. My brother and I grew up in Bay Ridge and we both voted for President Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ruthie was fond of telling me that that year she had just recently moved to Dyker Heights and when she went to vote at the same polling place where my brother and I had voted for Carter she said when she got there : “Well I’m going to cancel out one of their votes.”
Ruthie was diagnosed with Rapid dementia shortly before her 90th birthday. But she still loved to dance and told me she knew all the songs the residents sang at the Assisted Living. She was not fond of using a walker but did come to feel better about using it. She wouldn’t use a cane though she thought that’s all she needed because she said they have to train you to use that.
I myself married in my fiftieth year and was enchanted that Aunt Ruth told my wife Providencia who was from Puerto Rico –“On behalf of the Gilbride women; welcome to the family.” Aunt Ruthie proceeded to drive my wife and I to Buckley’s restaurant in Brooklyn for a dinner of steak and a drink of scotch.
Aunt Ruthie was an amazing woman and anyone who knew her thought so. She was full of energy and was deeply Christian and Catholic. She loved and was devoted to the Blessed Mother. In her later years she took care of her brother Jackie who was working for the police department when the terrorist attacks of September 11 occurred. She took care of Jackie till his death in 2012 and provided a burial with Marine honor guard for him. She lost the sibling she was most close to shortly before her brother Jackie died. That was her younger sister Janet Murphy who passed away leaving Ruthie the sole survivor of the 11 Gilbride children from 2012 to 2020. As things became difficult with the onset of dementia Ruth would say to me I just wish I could go stay with one of my brothers and sisters. She missed each of them dearly. She told when we said a decade of the rosary together that often when she would say her rosary she would say one Hail Mary of the ten in the decade for each of her ten brothers and sisters. Ruthie confided to me once she was at mass one time on a Sunday and was upset about something and realized later that that was not good enough for God and went to a second mass that same Sunday for God.
Aunt Ruth was a devout Catholic woman who grew up during the depression. All of her brothers served in the Second World War. She lived through Vietnam; the moon landing, the sixties, the Gulf War; The terrorist attack of September 11th and Iraq Afghanistan Wars. My last visit with her was on March 18th and it was the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The day before the St. Patrick’s Day parade was cancelled. That was the last day I saw her alive. It was not permitted to visit in person during the outbreak of Coronavirus and I had planned to Facetime her with the assistance of the staff on April 29th.
Instead I received a phone call on April 29th that Aunt Ruth did not wake up that morning. She had passed in her sleep. I had visited her on her 90th birthday on March 7th at the Assisted Living and she said she had forgotten it was her birthday. I was convinced when I saw her that she was going to live to 100. God had other plans for Ruthie. He called her home. It was just after Mother’s Day weekend. Ruthie’s mother Catherine had been waked at home on East 10th Street on Mother’s Day weekend. When Aunt Ruth asked me to take charge of her burial she told me she had taken charge of burying her father and that he left her a note which she still had which said: “You never know when the Lord is going to call you home.” Though Ruthie was 90 I never would have thought she would go home that April morning.
I can only find solace that knowing all the eleven (11) Gilbride children are home in the place the Lord has for them; their eternal home. Ruthie and I together took care of all the funeral preparations for her brother my Uncle Jackie. She had the plot in Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York so that as she said the three single people could be buried together; Uncle Kenny; Uncle Jackie and Aunt Ruthie. As Jackie was buried there 8 years ago; Aunt Ruthie joked with me she going to say when she got there: “Move over Jackie!”
Aunt Ruthie was a staunchly independent woman. She told me when we had dinner at the Assisted Living residence for Thanksgiving she wanted to bolt out the door; as she “wanted her rights!”
At the Same time she was independent and used to taking care of herself by herself she was a loving Catholic – Christian woman who would encourage people to go to church even though they felt they needed money to go to church.
The whole entire Gilbride Family will miss Aunt Ruth or Ruthie. Certainly, she was one of a kind. She was a unique, unrepeatable, loving daughter; sister and aunt. She was as they say the “end of the line” of the eleven Gilbride children of Charles and Catherine Gilbride. We pray now she watches over us all and intercedes for us with the Lord and his Blessed Mother. Eternal Rest Grant Unto her Oh Lord and May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her. May Her Soul and all the Souls of the Faithful Departed Rest in Peace. Amen.
The family asks in lieu of flowers donations be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (www.stjude.org)