Obituary: Ruby Helen Meaders 1921–2023

RUBY HELEN (BURKE) MEADERS March 5, 1921–Jan. 31, 2023

Ruby passed away peacefully in her sleep in the early morning hours of January 31, 2023 to reunite with her beloved husband James (Jim) John Meaders (1919–1984).

Ruby was born on March 5, 1921 in Knowlton, Wisconsin. She was the oldest of two children born to Tillie Hartmann and her 2nd husband Leon Burke; the family also had four older children from Tillie’s first husband, Max Kujawski, who died in 1917.

Ruby was a happy child, despite some extreme challenges. At age two she contracted Scarlet Fever. The illness robbed her of the hearing in her right ear and her sense of smell. The family moved to South Bend, Indiana before Ruby started school. At the age of eight, and the start of the great depression, Ruby’s father died in an auto/train collision, leaving her mother a widow for the second time, and requiring the help of all the children to make a living.

Ruby loved to read and learn. She was student council president of her senior class, graduating from James Whitcomb Riley High School in 1939, as the class valedictorian. She then began work as a secretary at the Bendix Aviation Corporation.

While attending a USO dance in 1942, she met and later married Jim, an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, who was serving as a navigation instructor on the Notre Dame campus. As an expectant mom, following Jim’s departure to serve on the Battleship Nevada (as a gunnery officer during WWII), she moved back home with her mother, who died suddenly a few months later.

While Jim was away, Ruby gave birth to Thomas (1944–2016). Following the war, they moved to McCook, Nebraska so Jim could resume his teaching career. While there, Ruby gave birth to Donald, Kenneth, and Barbara. After a brief time in Greely, Colorado for Jim to earn a Master’s Degree, the family moved on to Los Alamos, New Mexico (1952), having never visited the city. Jim became the head of the Los Alamos  High School math department. Ruby gave birth to her last child, Frederick.

In 1957 the family lost their house and belongings when they were destroyed by an accidental natural gas explosion and resultant fire. While rearing their 5 children, Ruby and Jim were founding members of the Los Alamos Schools Credit Union (1958). Ruby worked for 8 years as the Credit Union manager, with the original office in the front foyer of their rebuilt family home. Ruby maintained all the books, tracked all transactions, and balanced every account using only paper, pen, and an adding machine.

Ruby lived in Los Alamos for over 60 years. She and Jim were faithful members of the First United Methodist Church there. They also enjoyed bowling in leagues, hiking, and camping with the family. They took joy in taking the family in their small camping trailer to travel all around the western United States. The family left Los Alamos for one school year, living in Las Cruces, where Jim taught as an invited Visiting Professor at New Mexico State University.

After their return to Los Alamos, Ruby started working for the Los Alamos Schools Library Technical Services. In 1971, Jim suffered a major stroke and Ruby stood fast by his side throughout his recovery and return to work. Then in 1984 she lost Jim to a heart attack. Ruby retired from the Library Services in June of 1991.

In 2000, a forest fire destroyed 235 homes in Los Alamos, including all the houses on and near Ruby’s street, which was next to the forest. She was evacuated for several weeks, but her house was spared, since she had the foresight to cover it with a metal roof and siding.

After Jim’s passing, Ruby found solace by spending time with family and through service to friends, neighbors, and other seniors.

Ruby (1921–2023) and Jim (1919–1984) Meaders together at last.

She loved to travel and was always looking forward to her next trip. Ruby wanted to share her travel adventures with family, often paying the way for family members to join her; she also enjoyed traveling as a companion with elderly friends. Ruby took numerous cruises and trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Europe, South and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. She also found time to crochet about 150 afghans to gift to new babies, family members, friends, the Los Alamos Senior Center and others in need. Ruby spent countless hours serving at the senior center, driving other seniors to appointments, etc. She loved making visits to family and especially enjoyed meeting grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Between trips and other activities Ruby found joy fostering puppies and other dogs awaiting permanent homes. She was always excited when the Española Humane Animal Shelter would call asking for help with housing a dog. She loved the dogs, and had the time, patience, and ability to train and socialize them, often including house training for the puppies. Ruby fostered and named over 100 dogs. She was always both happy and sad when they left for a permanent home.

In March of 2016 (at the age of 95), Ruby moved to Albuquerque to be closer to her children as she advanced in age, living at Paloma Landing Retirement Community and finally at Sandia Senior Suites Assisted Living. Ruby lived a life of purpose and left a legacy of friendship, service and love to all; we would all be blessed to follow her example in our own way.

Ruby was preceded in death by her parents, her siblings Calvin, Wilfred, Irene, Erwin and George, her husband, Jim, and eldest son, Tom. She is survived by Janet (Tom’s spouse), Don (Michelle), Ken (Linda), Barbara (Alan) Bertram, Fred (Bonnie), 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Per Ruby’s wishes, she will be cremated and her ashes will be interred in the Santa Fe National Cemetery with her sweetheart, Lt. James J. Meaders USN. Together at last. A graveside service will be held at a later date.

The family wishes to express thanks to the Simplicity caregivers at Paloma Landing, and the caregivers and Harmony Hospice nurses at Sandia Senior Suites.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you make a donation in Ruby’s name to the EspaŪola Humane Shelter (, or a similar facility in your own community.

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