Ruth (Kean) French




Life and Work

Ruth was born in St. John, New Brunswick in 1926, the third of four children. She grew up on a farm in West St. John that over looked the Bay of Fundy. While living here, it was her job on Saturdays to churn butter from the cream they got from their cow. Ruth attended grade nine in St. Albert school and grades ten and eleven at St. John High School. After high school she attended St. John Vocation School where she took office work.

Over her life, Ruth held many jobs, including the Air Force for three years where she was a Fighter Control Operator, watching for planes on the radar. While in the Air Force, Ruth enjoyed participating in activities such as variety shows, plays and playing basketball. After the Air Force, Ruth moved to Edmonton to work at the Canadian National Railway. In Edmonton, Ruth met Lowell Myron French, a farm boy from Saskatchewan. Ruth and Lowell (or “Red” as he was known by many) were married in St. John New Brunswick on June 23rd 1956.

They returned to Edmonton where Red began work at Lennox Welding and Supplies, while they lived in a small house on 96th street in Edmonton. Their first child, Grace Constance French was born on April 26th 1957. They then purchased a home across from the Kensington School in Edmonton, and their second child Neil John French was born on September 20th 1958. Ruth was also a foster mom during her time in the Kensington neighborhood, taking care of twelve babies at different times. One of these babies was Ronald Wayne who the French’s later adopted.

While in Edmonton Ruth was a Girl Guide leader and was active in the Catholic Women’s League. The French family was also very active in the Kensington Community League. After living on a small acreage outside of Beaumont for a year, they purchased a farm west of Millet in 1967, where their daughter Grace still lives. There was no running water here, which was a big adjustment for this family from the city. The French’s tried their hand at raising pigs, cows, chickens, sheep and a horse (among other animals), thrashing grain, making their own butter and ice cream, and making down pillows from the feathers from their own geese, and eventually went into dairy farming, which Neil took over when he finished school. Ruth and Red then started a market garden and took their produce to the farmers market in Wetaskiwin. During this time, Ruth was still active in the CWL, as well as the Millet Legion, where she held the position of secretary. As members of the Bigstone and Porto Bello Community Leagues, the family enjoyed participating in famers day picnics, ball tournaments and Christmas concerts. After working in the Wetaskiwin General Hospital in the kitchen and at the Ermineskin School in Hobbema as a secretary, Ruth and Red retired and moved into an apartment in Wetaskiwin for two years. Due to Reds failing health they then moved into the Legion arms in Wetaskiwin where Ruth still lives. Red passed away in April of 2006. Ruth still enjoys participating in Wednesday night bingo and crib games in the legion, as well as the music groups that come to entertain at the Legion.