Jack's Mother

Ruth Mae (Bradford) Phillips

February 19, 1907 - June 18, 1990

By Jack Phillips

My mother's story could really fill a book, but until I or someone else produces one, here is the condensed version along with a few things I remember.

Click any picture for a larger image and more information.

The Early Years

Ruth was born in the tiny town of Tyro, Kansas, and lived most of her early years in the Southeastern part of Kansas. She attended Emporia State Teacher's College and received her Teaching Certificate there. But after one year of teaching, she decided it was not for her.

She married Francis Wagner in the mid-1920's and had two children (Francis Jr. and Betty Jo) with him, but the marriage ended in divorce in the early 1930's. For some reason never discussed, she lost custody of the two kids to her sister.

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Ruth at age 18.

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September 2, 1928,

Francis Jr.'s first birthday.

He is shown in front of his mother, Ruth, with Ruth's mother, Cuba, on the right and Cuba's mother, Fannie, at the left.

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Living in Wichita, Kansas

After moving to Wichita, she married Frank Phillips and they had two children, Jack and Mike. This marriage ended when Frank left to join the Army sometime in the early 1940's. This was a period of poverty and she struggled to take care of her children by working menial jobs. As World War II grew the aircraft plants started hiring women and she was able to obtain a good job with Cessna Aircraft. So now she had enough money to feed the family, but everything was rationed.

To make things even worse, her fiancé, Euell, was killed in action in the closing days of World War II. And the good news of the war ending was followed by her loss of work. All of the women were fired and the jobs given back to the men returning from the war effort. So it was back to low paying jobs for a couple of years.

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1947 with her two children from the first marriage, Betty Jo and Francis, who was on active duty in the Navy.

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The Rose Hill, Kansas Years

In 1948 the Catholic church decided to buy a whole block of houses, including ours, to build a new facility. She took the money and purchased a run-down farm on 100 acres about 5 miles from the small town of Rose Hill. A new adventure began!

We raised chickens & sold the eggs; cows & sold some of the cream; lots of vegetables & sold some to friends in Wichita; and Jack shot rabbits & sold them also. It was another form of poverty, but we always had plenty to eat. The neighbors slowly accepted a "divorced" woman raising a couple of boys on her own.

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Ruth in 1950.

She was an attractive woman, but just had no time for socializing.

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The House Burns Down

Things went well until the house burned to the ground in January 1952, taking all our clothes and possessions with it. Some friends helped us convert two rooms in the barn to living quarters and we spent the next year living there. .

Mom's step-father was a retired carpenter and they came up and lived in a small travel trailer for several months while he framed a small house for us. But money was still a problem since the insurance agent claimed that our payments were in arrears and refused to pay any claim (something he would have never done with a man). Luckily the local hardware owner loaned Ruth the money for lumber so we could at least have a house of some type.

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Ruth by the old barn in 1953. We were living the back area.

As you can see it was already a run down structure and we had to nail cardboard on the inside walls to keep the Kansas winds at least somewhat subdued.

The dog's name is forgotten.

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Late 1952.

Ruth and her mother, Cuba Leggett, with the unfinished, tar paper covered house behind them.

The house was never finished, but indoor plumbing was finally installed in the 1980's.

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Later Years

Both Jack and Mike moved on to their careers and Ruth ran a small restaurant for a couple of years since the farm didn't generate enough money to live on. She also did cleaning jobs for some of the local people along with a few years of work at Beech Aircraft in Wichita. She had the opportunity to live with her boys, but preferred to continue living alone on the farm. The first two pictures below were taken in 1987 when she visited Florida and stayed with Jack. Once again, she turned down an offer to stay there and returned to the farm. Her favorite saying was "It took me over 30 years to get accepted and I'm not leaving now!" And so she didn't. She is buried one mile from the farm in Dunlap Cemetery.