Ruby VanDenBerg this years’ “Friend of the Fair”
By Beth Hulm
Ruby VanDenBerg, who will be 92 in September and who is almost a lifelong resident of Perkins County, has the distinction of being the 2nd Annual “Friend of the Fair,” an honor bestowed upon her by the Perkins County Fair Board. She will be recognized prior to the nighttime rodeo Saturday night August 4th. Most of her family members will be in attendance to celebrate with her.
Unfortunately, Ruby’s husband of 70 years won’t be there. Herman passed away last June at the age of 91, just days after the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a big party. He is buried in the Prairie City Cemetery near his parents and their son
Herman and Ruby’s life together began on June 11, 1947 when they married in the American Lutheran Church in Bison. They lived south of Prairie City in Antelope Township for 67 years before selling their beloved ranch to Sam Marty and moving to Spearfish where they would be nearer some of their family.
The VanDenBerg Ranch, which attained Century Farm status in 2013, raised Hereford, Limousin and Red Angus cows (and sold farm fresh cream!), sheep, hogs, Appaloosa horses, chickens and turkeys.
It is also where Ruby and Herman raised their six children. Marilyn, Cindy, Susan, Gloria, Wynn and Lisa. Sadly, Wynn suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease and passed away at his home in Colorado at the age of 58 on June 3, 2016.
The VanDenBergs raised their family to be responsible about ranch chores, to have respect for their teachers and elders, to help others and, above all else, to love the Lord. Their large summer gardens were a family affair. The kids also learned to “have fun and that we loved them,” Ruby said.
“Yes, there were good times, tough times, sad times and glad times,” Ruby said. “Our family has always been there for one another.”
Throughout all those years of farm chores and raising kids, Ruby and Herman’s entire family was active in 4H activities, showing exhibits first at Perkins County Achievement Days and, later, at the Perkins County Fair, which was established 57 years ago. Both Ruby and Herman served as 4-H leaders and Ruby often volunteered at fair time to enter open class exhibits and to assist with judging them. Herman and Wynn contributed to the construction of the new rodeo arena.
Ruby was raised in the Date community, approximately 40 miles southwest of Bison. Her parents were Rube and Ida Haggart. She attended Highland country school through the 8th grade and graduated from Lemmon High School in 1942.
Immediately following graduation, she moved west to Spokane, Washington to live with her sister Dorothy. Ruby attended business school while waiting tables. She also worked in a garage, polishing cars for a while. Later the sisters moved to Seattle and Ruby worked in an insurance agency.
In the fall of 1946, Ruby returned home for a visit and was courted by Herman VanDenBerg. “My feet got stuck in the gumbo,” she joked, and she stayed.
Ruby Van, as she’s affectionately been called, was a 60+ year member of the Hand-E Hands Extension club in their rural Zeona community in southwest Perkins County. She held offices on the Perkins County Council, too. Even after Hand-E-Hands disbanded, she remained active as a member-at-large in the county organization, Perkins County CFEL, where she held several offices and was a project leader. She often represented Perkins County as a voting member at state conventions. In 1998, she received the Perkins County CFEL Honored Homemaker award.
The ladies’ husbands and children often joined their club meetings. Hand-E-Hands was only one community activity that was family-oriented. The close-knit community also held card parties, picnics, and local dances. They attended all activities at Union country school and enjoyed visiting each other’s homes for coffee breaks and shared meals. The coffeepot was always on at VanDenBerg Ranch where visitors were welcomed with a smile!
As a member of Immanual Lutheran Church, Zeona, Ruby taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and attended Ladies Aid meetings. Herman served on the church council, the Antelope Township board and the Bison school board.
They were both 50+ year members of Pasque Lodge and West River Shrine Club and had 50-year pins from the Fairview Chapter of Eastern Star.
“We lived in a wonderful community where folks were always ready to help one another,” Ruby said. Although she has now lived in a townhouse in Spearfish for four years, “The north prairies will always be home!” she said.
She is honored to be this year’s recipient of the “Friends of the Fair” award. Please stop by at the fairgrounds on Saturday to enjoy the activities and to visit with Ruby and her family on this and all other lifetime achievements.