Ruby and Roy Gabrielson keep apologizing for not being more exciting.
I’m interviewing the Ladysmith couple — who are in their eighties — for a Valentine’s Day feature because they will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on Feb. 14, and they’re apologetic that they can’t think of more interesting stories or more exciting events when I ask them about their life together.
But maybe that’s their secret. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve done a little or done a lot — what matters is they’ve done it together.
Ruby (whose maiden name is Lewis) and Roy were married Feb. 14, 1953, and they’ve been together ever since. They’ve moved around a fair bit and raised four children, and they’ve found a way to stay happy and stay in love.
Ruby is now 81, and Roy will be 89 in June. Sitting in their living room with their son Gary and their dog Coby, they laugh easily and banter back and forth as they think back on their marriage and on their life together.
The Gabrielsons were married on Valentine’s Day, and Ruby says they didn’t plan to get married on Valentine’s Day — it just happened to be a handy weekend. They were married in an Anglican church in Langley in front of family members and close friends.
“It was a good wedding,” Roy says, smiling broadly.
Roy and Ruby knew each other when they were growing up in Langley, where Ruby was one of 13 children on a big farm on the property that later became the Langley Speedway, and Roy was one of three children.
“My husband knew me when I was little,” said Ruby. “He chummed around with my brothers. We’d gone together about a year and a half before we decided to get married. I was going with another young man before I met my husband. My mother was quite disgusted with me because I left this good guy who went to church and got on with him. But she got over it.”
“I got along with her mother better than she did,” he says.
Roy used to be around Ruby’s parents’ house all the time with her brothers, and that’s how she started getting to know him.
When asked what made them interested in each other, they both say it’s because they got along so well.
“We always got along,” said Ruby.
“I thought we still get along,” Roy laughs, before adding more seriously, “We’ve had a good life.”
Ruby had a twin brother named Roy, and she remembers with a laugh that her sister used to ask what she had gotten up to on the weekend, and when she’d say “Roy came to see me,” her sister always wondered why he didn’t visit her. Ruby says it took her about a month to catch on that she wasn’t referring to their brother.
Both Ruby and Roy feel like they’ve been lucky in their life.
“We had four good kids, and we have good grandkids,” said Roy. “What more can we ask for? I wouldn’t change my life.”
Roy says his funniest story of their life together is when they were married, Ruby insisted he go ask her mother for permission.
“She gave me a lecture about the way I drank, and I didn’t drink a lot,” he said. “I said ‘you should look at your own sons first.’ I went out to see her dad, and he asked what Mom said, and I told him, and he laughed.”
Ruby and Roy ended up in Ladysmith after living in a logging camp.
Roy used to work at Pitt Lake logging camp before there were roads there, and when their son was ready to go to school, they decided to move into town. They bought a house on Methuen Street and rented it for a year before moving here. In 1963 or 1964, they moved into a home on Gatacre Street, and in 1977, they moved onto Fourth Avenue.
They moved to Vernon to be closer to Ruby’s brothers and sisters and stayed there for five years and then lived in Summerland for five years. They moved back to Ladysmith in 1999, and they are now enjoying living close to their family, as their children live in Ladysmith, Duncan and Victoria.
Roy says their marriage works because they get along well.
“I know enough to let her be right,” he laughed.
“We got along really well,” said Ruby. “I can’t complain. That’s part of being married, learning to give and take. We never once ever split up. I got mad at him once in a while, but never that bad.”
“We’ve been lucky,” she added. “We’ve never had anything serious happen to us over the years.”
Roy had his leg crushed when he was run over by a forklift while he worked at the Crofton mill, but Ruby stuck by him.
Roy worked at the Crofton mill for most of his life from 1960 to his retirement when he was 64.
After the children grew up, Ruby worked five years doing home care before Roy decided to retire.
“I wouldn’t change my life,” said Ruby.
“No, I don’t think I would either,” said Roy.
After Roy retired, the Gabrielsons used to like traveling across Canada and in to the U.S. in a fifth-wheel.
Now they like to watch hockey together, and Roy likes to take his scooter out and tour around town with the dog once a day.
“He likes to go to restaurants to eat — he doesn’t like my cooking anymore,” Ruby laughs.
“No, she’s a good cook,” Roy says, smiling. “That’s why I’m so healthy.”
“We’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” said Ruby.
Roy and Ruby don’t have big plans for their 60th anniversary this Thursday.
“I’ll probably take her out for dinner,” Roy said, noting they are going to Victoria for the weekend to see their son.