Skip to main content

Ruth French

Ruth French
Ruth was born on November 3rd, 1926 in St. John, New Brunswick. The third child of William and Isabel Kean, she had two older sisters, Grace and Betty, and a younger brother, Walter. She grew up on a small farm in West St. John, in a house which looked out over the Bay of Fundy. On this farm they had one cow and two to three pigs. Ruth’s job every Saturday was to churn butter from the cream they got from their cow.
She attended school at Deaconsfield school until grade eight. Ruth and her sisters had to ski to school in the winter time, and the principal of the school always felt sorry for the poor Kean girls, who were always late because they had so far to ski. Little did he know they were late because they would go back up the hill and ski down several times before they would continue on their way to school. Ruth attended grade nine at St. Albert school and grades ten and eleven at St. John High School. After high school, she attended St. John Vocation School. She then went to work for the New Brunswick Telephone Company, where she worked in the office.
In 1952, she joined the Air Force as a Fighter Control Operator. Her job was to watch for planes on radar. She was stationed in Falconbridge, Ontario for two years and in Lac Saint-Denis, Quebed for one year. While in the Air Force, she participated in many activities such as variety shows, plays, and basketball. In 1955, she left the Air Force and moved to Edmonton, where she began to work at the Canadian National Railway. In Edmonton, she met Lowell Myron French, a farm boy from Saskatchewan who was in Edmonton taking a welding course. They got married in St. John on June 23rd, 1956. They returned to Edmonton where Lowell, or “Red”, as he was known by everyone, began working at Lennox Welding and Supplies.
They lived in a small house on 96th St. in Edmonton, where their first child, Grace Constance French, was born on April 26th, 1957. They then purchased a home across from the Kensington School in Edmonton. Their second child, Neil John French, was born on September 20th, 1958. Kensington was a new community at that time, with a lot of young families and neighborhood parties. During their time in Kensington, Ruth was a foster mom and she fostered twelve babies at different times. One of these babies was Ronald Wayne, who they then later adopted as their third child. While in Edmonton, Ruth was a Girl Guide leader and was very active in the Catholic Women's League. The family belonged to the St. Edmond's Parish. They were also active in the Kensington Community League.
In 1966, they moved to a small acreage just outside of Beaumont where they lived for a year. While in Beaumont, Ruth fostered two more kids, a brother and sister who were three and five years old. In 1967, they purchased a farm west of Millet, where their daughter Grace still lives. When they moved onto the farm there was no running water in the house, which was quite a shock for this city family from Edmonton. Red left his job at Lennox’s and started full time farming. For a while, the French family had a mixed farm with a cow, chickens, turkeys, geese, sheep, and a horse. They separated cream from the cow’s milk and made their own butter and ice cream. The neighbors would all get together and butcher the chickens when they were ready. Everyone had their own job when butchering. One year, Ruth decided to make down pillows with the geese feathers after butchering. Six ladies sat all day stripping the spines out of the geese feathers for one pillow. There was down everywhere. It was the last time she ever tried that. The family then went into dairy farming until Neil finished school and took over the dairy. Ruth and Red started a market garden; they took their vegetable into the farmers' market in Wetaskiwin.
While on the farm, Ruth remained active in the Millet CWL and spent a lot of her time driving Neil around to his hockey games until he got his own license. She was also active in the Legion in Millet where she held the position of secretary. The French family were members of the Bigstone Community League, where they enjoyed many pancake suppers, farmers’ day picnics, ball tournaments, and Christmas concerts. When Bigstone closed down, they joined the Porta Bella Community League. When the kids were grown up, she worked at the Wetaskiwin General Hospital in the kitchen and then at Ermineskin School in Hobbema as an office secretary. Ruth and Red retired and moved into an apartment in Wetaskiwin in November of 2002, where they lived for two years. Due to Red’s failing health they then moved into the Legion Arms in Wetaskiwin. Red passed away in April of 2006, and Ruth passed away on October 14, 2012.