A jewel of Cranbrook

Community remembers long-term volunteer Ruby Sinclair

Ruby Sinclair

Cranbrook is mourning the passage of one of its most beloved citizens — Ruby Sinclair, who died last week at age 95.

Sinclair’s love of Cranbrook led her to become one of Cranbrook’s most recognized volunteers, and one of the most well-known and respected people in the community.

A story from one of Sinclair’s favourite venues — at a Kootenay Ice hockey game — illustrates the regard in which she was held in Cranbrook. Sinclair was invited to drop the puck at a ceremonial face-off during an Ice playoff game last September.

Accompanying her to centre ice was Mayor Wayne Stetski, who invited the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday,” in honour of Sinclair’s nearby 95th birthday.

The crowd was happy to serenade the Kootenay Ice’s uber-fan.

“Ruby loved this community,” said Karin Penner, Manager of the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce and longtime friend of Sinclair’s. “Love is more than a relationship between two people, it’s an expression of yourself.”

Sinclair demonstrated her love for community with her actions. There was never a more dedicated volunteer. She never missed a Chamber of Commerce function, Penner said, nor a Fort Steele play opening.

“Everybody knew Ruby, and that’s the way she wanted it. She always had a smile for everyone.”

Sinclair was born Ruby Heaney in 1917 in Esther, Alberta. She married William McEachern Sinclair, in 1946, and moved to the East Kootenay, first to Elko — where her three children were born —then to Bill’s hometown of Wardner.

The family relocated to Cranbrook in 1961, where Ruby worked as school secretary at T.M. Roberts Elementary and then at Laurie Jr. Secondary (now Laurie Middle School).

She retired in 1983, and assumed her inimitable career as a volunteer — at Fort Steele Heritage Town, the Key City Theatre, the Cranbrook Visitors’ Booth, the Hospital Auxiliary …

She and Bill were both inveterate travellers, and even after Bill’s death in 1990 she indulged in this passion.

Sinclair was named Cranbrook’s Woman of the Year by the Canadian Federation of University Women in 2001, and Volunteer of the Year by Volunteer Kootenays in 2008.

This week, Volunteer Kootenays issued a statement at the news.

“Ruby is a testament to what we promote every day — volunteerism as a vital part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle,” the organization said. “Many local volunteers looked up to her as the matriarch of volunteering — a fabulous role model with a beautiful smile and a sharp wit.

“She was honoured in 2008 as our Volunteer of the Year, but she dedicated her entire life to helping others and building community.

“Ruby leaves behind a huge legacy of community involvement, and a very big set of shoes for us all to aspire to fill. She will be missed.”

Sinclair was a dedicated volunteer at the Key City Theatre.

“We always looked forward to a visit from Ruby, even when she stopped volunteering,” said Leslie Cupidio of the theatre. “Quite often we would put her in charge of programs and when she had them during a school program where donations were required, everyone always paid. After all, who could say no to Ruby?”

Sinclair’s love of hockey was well documented — for example, she was one of the public faces in Cranbrook’s run in the Kraft Hockeyville contest of 2010. She was the oldest Kootenay Ice season ticket holder.

“She was a great community ambassador — her warm personality appealed to everyone,” said Cranbrook City Councillor Gerry Warner. “If you went to an Ice game and didn’t see Ruby, you felt shortchanged.”

Sinclair’s 95th birthday celebration, held in August at the Heritage Inn, was a community gathering in its own right, as wellwishers from all levels of Cranbrook came to pay their respects.

A Memorial for Ruby Sinclair will be held Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m. at the Alliance Church in Cranbrook.

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