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Miss Ruby was Couva’s living saint

Ruby Maxwell, 1918–2019

Ruby Maxwell died March 30 at the age of 101. Her funeral Mass took place April 9 at St Paul’s RC Church, Couva. Abbot John Pereira OSB and Fr Derek Anton were the celebrants. Her son Anthony Maxwell-Hatt delivered the following eulogy which has been edited for length.

Thank you all for being here to celebrate the life of my mother, Ruby Maxwell, a devoted mother and faithful servant of God. It is hard to say goodbye to anyone, especially a mother. While we know she is at peace, and her struggles are at an end, there is still pain and sadness in our hearts. She has left us a legacy of love and perseverance.

Our beautiful mother lived to be 101 years old, until her death on March 30. Throughout her years, our mother—who was affectionately called ‘Miss Ruby’—has indeed been referred to as a “living saint” more than once, without an ounce of sarcasm involved.

‘Mammy’ has given us so much and hardly ever asked for anything. From the strangers on the street, or those who were unfortunate not to have food, or clothing or a place to live, she provided for them without reservations. They sometimes called ‘Mammy’ the ‘Mother Teresa of Couva’. When she was younger, she would walk the streets looking for homeless people to provide food and shelter for them.

Mom was born on January 31, 1918 in the quiet town of Couva. Her parents were Agnes Eligon, daughter of a French cocoa estate owner in Gran Couva, and James Alexander Armoogum, an East Indian of Sri Lankan descent. Agnes and James named their baby, Ruby, after the precious gem.

She blossomed into a beautiful young woman, marrying and becoming Ruby Maxwell and giving birth to seven children. She had a love for ballroom dancing. She would tell us about her exploits travelling to different parts of Trinidad to participate in ballroom dancing competitions, winning many prizes for her dancing skills.

Mom’s heart of gold could not let her turn away the hundreds of poor and homeless who came to her home in Couva seeking help. She even had a long bench constructed in our yard so the underprivileged could sit while waiting to see her. She always reassured them, “I will try to get help for you, whether from somewhere else or from myself. But I will help you.”

Mom would not hesitate to pick up vagrants from the streets, bringing them home, cleaning them and providing clothing she collected from her work with the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Longevity seems to be in our family’s genes. Mom’s grandfather died at 103 and her mother at 98. I once asked my Mom what the secret to her long life is, and being a devout Catholic, she said, “Pray without ceasing; love your fellow beings; follow after truth; and be contented with what you have. Pray in the morning, at midday and on evenings.”

She continued, “I always pray. When trouble comes, I start to pray.” She remembered praying when the airplane in which she was travelling crash landed in a rice field in Portugal. By now, I thought that I had heard every possible story from her, but it seems that every day, we spent together with Mammy, we received a new history lesson.

Our mother did not take her parenting duties lightly and everyone respected ‘Miss Ruby’.

Above all things, our mother held complete and enduring love for her family. ‘Mammy’ raised her children well. That is obvious as all her children live her values of kindness and compassion. She was blessed with so much and never forgot to be thankful to God, and somehow, she kept her faith through all her trials.

So, cheers to the grand matriarch of our family on her passing into another life. Mom, we love you very much. You shall remain forever in our hearts. Rest in peace.