“Rather than mourn the flame, let us celebrate how brightly it burned”
Ruby Inez Lee Leary, longtime Porterville resident, passed away in Bluffdale, Utah after a brief illness on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. She was surrounded by her family.
She was born on 17 November, 1921 in Waurika, Oklahoma. As a child of the Great Depression, she and her family criss-crossed the western United States, as he father found work. Her father was employed during the entire Depression.
She lived for a time in Moore, Oklahoma (named after her maternal grandfather), Yuma, Phoenix, Pacific Grove and Monterey, before her family settled down in Bakersfield, California. She attended Fruitvale School and the original Kern County High School, now Bakersfield High School until 1937.
At the age of 13, her mother passed away, leaving Inez to raise her two brothers James and Junior, who were preschoolers at the time. Neighbor ladies taught her how to cook and do the laundry. One of her greatest prides was that her brothers attended school in clean, starched and ironed clothing. She would say “No one would know to look at them that they are motherless.”
Her father was working on the highway project near Wasco and she attended all of the boys’ teacher conferences, supervised their homework, ran the household and attended high school.. She was in charge of the family finances and took great pride in being able to save money and still be able to serve nutritious meals from scratch. Her father let her keep the money she saved to spend on herself. He often said “That ‘Nez has one good head for business. I do believe she can do anything she sets her mind to.”
After high school, she moved to San Francisco to work as a book keeper in the shipyards. She loved living in San Francisco and remarked always how wonderful the shopping was, with millinery, shoe and small dress shops. She took great pride in her appearance and kept lipstick at her bedside until she died. “Even an old barn looks better with a little paint,” she would say, as she applied her favorite red lipstick.
She was wearing a lavender suit and matching lavender peep-toe high heels when she met James Leary. They dated for a year before he could persuade her to consider marrying him.
She told him she would wait until he got a letter from the draft board before making such a huge commitment. James was a welding inspector for the naval shipyards and was needed stateside. The morning he got the letter exempting him from service, he took the ferry to her job and told her boss”Inez is getting married. She’ll be back next wee,k,” He found her on top of a pile of metal beams and had the swingboom operator bring her down.
“I need to buy a new suit!” she protested. “I like that purple one just fine”
“I need a new hat!” “I like that purple one just fine.”
“I need to have my hair done!” “I like your hair just fine!”
That set the note for the next 55 years.
She and James were married March 26, 1945 in Reno, Nevada. They spent the first years of their marriage in the San Francisco area, moving every three days because of the war.They lived for a time in Saucelito before returning to the Rockford School area of Porterville in 1947. They actively farmed until 1990. Part of their extensive farm operations was pasturing cattle in what is now Westwood Estates.
Inez spent the next fifty years learning how to be a successful farmer’s wife. She had a milk cow named Rosebud, a flock of chickens, a large garden, a small herd of sheep to keep the weeds down and several acres of fruit trees. She learned to can and freeze and was known for her wonderful cooking. There was always enough for anyone who dropped by.
She loved to entertain and kept up a lively correspondance with her many friends throughout the world until the time of her death.
She was active in Cotton Wives, the Rockford School PTA and the Rockford 4-H. She handled all of the business of the Leary Cattle and Farm operations. She encouraged James to diversify into a variety of crops, groves and orchards, as well as changing their cattle business from an Angus cow and calf business to a young dairy heifers, which was more profitable. She earned a real estate license so that she could buy and sell farm properties. She and James transformed a small dairy farm into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Her father was right. “That Nez had a good head for business.”
She was very active in the community and was a member of Cotton Wives, the Rockford PTA and 4-H. During the ’60’s, the Porterville Memorial Auditorium hosted ballet companies, Shakespearean touring companies, operas, musicals and travelogues. She never missed a single one. She had enjoyed all of these activities in San Francisco and had no intention of having her children miss out on big city entertainment.
During her lifetime, she traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, Japan, the South Pacific and all 50 states. She made many visits to Mallow, Rathmore and Cork, Ireland, where James had family. Despite her travels, she often said there was no prettier place in all the world than Porterville.
An avid reader, she was also an accomplished musician. and vocalist. Her daughter, Judy, has the Martin acoustical she received when she was 12.She could play any stringed instrument she could get her hands on.
She loved nothing more than her family. Grandchildren Ben and Lisi were lucky enough to live in Porterville and have her as an enduring guiding influence in their lives.She loved her grandchildren and they are blessed beyond measure for that fierce, enduring love. She taught them how to cook, how to be independent and how to live life to the fullest.
Inez was preceded in death by her parents, Hiram Calvin and Virgie Mae Moore Lee; sisters Jewell Mae Mefford and Opal Irene Winter; brothers James L. and Junior (Hiram Calvin, Jr) Lee, her beloved husband, James Leary and daughter Margaret Mae.
Survivors include Kathleen Wenthur (Michael) of Hanford, California and Judy Parrish (Gene), grandchildren Ben Wenthur and Alicia Bridge, also of Hanford; Seth, Joshua (Allison), Joseph and Eli Bendoski, all of Utah. She had five great grandchildren.
She will be buried next to her husband , James and daughter Margaret at Hillcrest Cemetery on April 20, 2009 at 10 am. Family friend Steve Gilstrap will officiate at the graveside service. Arrangements by Myers Funeral Home.
Love is difficult to define, not difficult to discern.