Listening: The Love Story of Jack and Betty Kate Ruth
Girl meets Boy. Boy meets Girl. Isn’t that how most love stories begin? Indeed, that’s how Betty Kate and Jack Ruth met in 1951. Betty Kate, a recent Winthrop College graduate, was working as a summer DCE for a church in King’s Mountain, Jack’s hometown. That summer, Jack was working for his father, and one of his duties was to fetch the mail from the post office every day. Across the street from the post office is where Betty Kate was sitting on the church steps with a group of children attending Bible school.
Even today when she recounts the story of first seeing Jack, her face lights up. “There was this beautiful young man! I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Who,” she asked the children, “is that?” It being a small town where everyone knew everyone else, she learned his name right away.
They can’t agree on where they met. Wherever it was, after Jack graduated from Davidson in the spring of 1953, he and Betty Kate married that August 12. Jack’s leadership experiences at Davidson, where he was quarterback of the football team and president of the student body, helped ease him into a career in banking.
Their three children, Libby, Tripp, and David, grew up in Lumberton, where Jack was with Southern National Bank, and Betty Kate taught reading at the state prison in Robeson County for the local community college. Her efforts enabled inmates to prepare for better lives outside the prison.
Betty Kate’s vision began to fade gradually 32 years ago, which she says was a “fabulous blessing because it gave me time to adjust.” Always a voracious reader, Betty Kate now listens to tapes that come from the Library of Congress’s National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (https://www.loc.gov/nls/). She has used their service for so long that the people answering the phone recognize her voice. She has, to date, read 6,000 books on tape. She often reviews books for The Pines Readers book club, and she does so without notes.
Betty Kate and Jack maintain an interest in others and enjoy meeting new people. When I asked Betty Kate how she could remember so many details about other people and their families, she smiled and said, “I just listen.”
Jack, especially, is interested in Davidson College sporting events. After he and Betty Kate married, they didn’t miss a Wildcat home football game for 15 years. Even now, you’ll find Jack in the stands cheering on his team.
The inevitable question to a couple married for so long: What is the secret to your long marriage? Jack replied immediately, “I’m happy because of her.” Betty Kate thinks it is important that couples take time to know each other and “like each other.” They agree that maintaining a good attitude, which they say can take some work, is important for them individually and as a couple.
Betty Kate and Jack, a most charming and delightful couple, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this August.
Jennie Clifton, a Concord native, taught high school Latin in Georgia, where she was a Tar Heel in exile until she and her husband Cecil, a Davidson graduate, retired here in 2011. They are now enjoying life at The Pines.