OUR HOMETOWN: Vibrant senior still active at 88

Ruby Willams (centre) does her TRX workout during a fitness class at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Centre in Williams Lake on her 88th birthday this month. (Robyn Dawes photo)Ruby Willams (centre) does her TRX workout during a fitness class at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Centre in Williams Lake on her 88th birthday this month. (Robyn Dawes photo)
Ruby Williams is an active and engaged senior who at 88, still has a curious mind and attends fitness classes at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex at least a couple of times a week. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Ruby Williams’ advice for others is to “keep moving.”

The active senior turned 88 on Dec. 1 and credits the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex’s programs for some of her vigor.

“We’re there three times a week when the yoga is on,” she said.

She lives independently and still clears the snow from her driveway herself.

“Unless it’s two feet deep,” she qualifies, humbly.

Williams keeps up her fitness with TRX fitness classes, yoga, swimming, walking and bowling, and isn’t afraid to try new things.

“You’ve got to challenge yourself,” she advises.

This is advice she has definitely applied in her own life.

Williams took up swimming in her thirties when a friend who was a swimmer encouraged her to join her in a swim challenge during Canada’s centennial in 1967.

She completed the goal of swimming 25 miles that year, one mile at a time, after starting out not able to swim one pool length.

Williams also completed the Tour de Cariboo three times in her 70s, a now-defunct event which used to have cyclists pedal from Williams Lake to Gavin Lake, a 75-kilometre ride.

When her husband passed away, she decided she needed to change things up, and took up bowling, a more social pursuit.

“Stay active, and stay interested,” says Williams, who swam 86 lengths on her 86th birthday.

She is also a long-time quilter, creating king-sized and queen-sized quilts during COVID to keep herself busy when the fitness centres reduced her active schedule.

“I love fabrics,” said Williams, who was taught to sew by her grandmother on a treadle machine, and has been quilting for about 20 years.

An engaged and curious person, she and her husband traveled together to many places, and she still continues to explore the world, most recently touring Russia with a friend in 2019, before the pandemic began. It’s a place she recommends people to check out, calling it ‘fascinating.’

They planned the trip with the help of a local travel agency, and she was impressed by the country and what she learned after spending five days in Moscow and nearly a week in St. Petersburg. The trip got her interested in the culture and she has been reading some of the classics of Russian literature since her return.

Her fascination with different cultures and how other people live has taken her to Cuba, China, Australia, South America, and more.

The South America trip she and her husband did included Peru, the Falkland Islands, and many more countries on the 37-day tour.

A Canadian historian was on the ship, from which the tour was based, and there were daily lectures.

“We were well-informed before we got there,” she explained.

This is added to the experience for Williams, who has also explored her own country thoroughly, having been across Canada more than once.

She has gone to the arctic, traveled to Labrador’s Red Bay, and has been to every province in the country except Nunavut.

Williams said she feels very lucky to have gotten to travel so extensively, something she said opens a person up to the world and allowed her to see how people in other countries live and are governed.

Through a long career in social services, Williams saw a lot of change, recalling some of the challenges women faced up to and including the 1960s, when single mothers still had their babies taken from them, and Canadian laws made it illegal for single mothers to even rent an apartment.

One of her first roles with social services was fostering some of these babies.

“They had five babies in a hotel room with a nurse,” she said, so she would take babies until they were adopted or permanently placed. She was a foster parent for 10 years and stays in touch with some of those she cared for.

She moved on to working with unemployed people in social services to help them attain education and training and apply for jobs.

She also raised four of her own biological children and now has six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, most of whom are in the area.

“I think I’m very lucky because I have a very rich life.”

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