By Denise Scott
They called her the ‘Mother Teresa of Couva’ years ago, when she would walk the streets looking for homeless people to provide food and shelter. Meet Ruby Rita Maxwell, one of the most amazing Catholic women you would ever meet.
Ruby, who celebrated her 100th birthday last Wednesday, has photos of when she was three years old, but her oldest memory is being six years old and singing on her father’s lap. She begins to sing the words of “Girl of my dreams, I love you”, a song her father would sing to her. She even recalls her grandfather who was originally from Martinique and died at 103 years old. “He owned an estate in Gran Couva and he rode a horse until he was 77 years old”.
Ruby married early. “I was 18 years old and started making children right through”. She is the mother of seven, which she describes as “plenty work!” Now her children live all over the world and she is a grandmother and great grandmother of many.
Ruby’s history as an ardent parishioner of St Paul’s RC Church is coloured with activity and participation in numerous groups. She was a member of the Sacred Heart Group, and St John’s Auxiliary; she’s served as a Eucharistic Minister as well as a member of the parish choir and the charismatic prayer group. But one of the things she loves dearly was being an Oblate.
An Oblate is a lay person who, while not a professed monk or nun, has affiliated him/herself with a monastic community. She professed to the monks at Mt St Benedict and passionately speaks about her love and dedication to the monks.
Her other passion was being a member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) where she was well known as the lady who made and delivered meals to the homeless on foot.
She spent much of her time preparing numerous Christmas hampers for the poor, did all that she could to provide clothes for those in need, and worked hard at getting housing for those who needed a home. It was from these actions, walking through the streets and parks of Couva that she was dubbed the Mother Teresa of Couva.
She joined the SVP in 1973 and tells the story of a family that she helped in Tabaquite. There were 13 children in the family, and she assisted in getting their home fixed and obtaining a good water supply. For many years later, the entire family would show up at her home around Christmas time to serenade her with parang.
There’s also the story of Enid, a woman who was poor and wore a head tie almost to her eyebrows. One day when Ruby removed the head tie she discovered that there were moths living on her forehead. She eventually cut off and combed Enid’s hair and when Enid died, she had nice long hair. Enid left her house for Ruby, but she in turn gave the home to a homeless person in the community.
That gentleman still visits her every Sunday and calls her at least once per week. When she found him, he had said, “Everyone talks about you”. She could not imagine what people may have been saying but he said, “Everyone says you are the one who helped them to get back on their feet.”
At 100 years old, she remains dedicated to the Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. every day. If you go to visit, you can’t help but notice her rosary beads in hand, her Good News Bible on one side and her Oblate book on the other. She reads both without need for glasses.
She boasts of being a great cook. “To tell you the truth, I can cook anything you call food and when I cook, you know is me who cook. I’ve been cooking since I was three years old!” Ruby affectionately tells the story of cooking for her then parish priest, Fr Declan Michael Gowen OP, who loved her cooking. She starts to laugh, “I teach him how to eat bake you know!”
She also loved to dance: “I could dance to anything and everything!” She shared that her best dance is the Castilian.
When asked what her secret for success is, she says it’s to have faith and trust in God, to speak well of and help others, eat healthy food, enjoy a restful sleep and remember that regardless of what happens, life goes on.
Thank you Ruby, for being a real woman of faith and service.