Of the many men and women who have worked at the Bowling Green Times since its inception in 1874, perhaps no other individual has left a mark on the publication quite like the late Ruby Freeman.
Ruby, who passed away at the age of 101 on Saturday, began her career at the Bowling Green Times as a proofreader and bookkeeper. When she left the newspaper in the early 1990s, her name had become synonymous with the publication.
Today, we remember Ruby for the hard-nosed newswoman that she was and for all the ways that she enriched our community by living and working here.
There is no doubt, Ruby was a community builder.
She sought out news from her friends and neighbors because she wished to inform others about the goings on in the place that she loved.
As one author wrote in a tribute to her at news of family’s sale of the Bowling Green Times to Jim Gierke in 1984, “Except for the Bible, the small-town newspaper was the only reading material that had no telephone, radio, or television. To them, there was no greater newspaper than the Bowling Green Times.”
I think I speak for all of us at the Times, when I say that was an undoubtedly true assessment.
Under Ruby’s care, there was not a newspaper in Pike County that was more relevant, more newsy, and more trusted than the Times.
And that is saying something because during Ruby’s lifetime, Pike County was home to more than half-a-dozen newspapers including: the Bowling Green Jeffersonian, the Pike County Post, the Clarksville Banner-Sentennial, the Frankford Chronicle, the Louisiana Press-Journal, the Twice-A-Week Times, and the Pike County Chronicle.
The competition did not scare Ruby, it simply made her and the Times a better newspaper.
She was an archivist.
Just recently, we rediscovered a series of photos which Ruby had carefully, and painstakenly, indexed in one of her many address books that she used to compile the our community’s history.
To illustrate how detailed-oriented Ruby was, in the one of the address books that Ruby transformed into a detailed history is the following timeline of significant events of our community’s past, including the date the event was publishd in the Times and the number of column inches dedicated to it:
“The First Pike County Fair was held from Aug. 23 to Aug. 26 in 1904. Two-pages. Published Aug, 17.
The New Madrid Earthquake struck on Aug. 8, 1928. See special edition from Aug. 8.
The Ayres Building, the predecessor to the Ben Franklin store, was destroyed by fire. See Sept. 22, 1960 edition for more information.
The original Knights of Columbus Hall in St. Clement was torn down, in the July 28, 1971 edition. The original church was torn down three years prior in April 17, 1968.
The home of Bowling Green’s founding family, the Basyes, was erected in 1820. The home was profiled with a story on April 19, 1978.”
The point of listing all these dates is to hopefully show how forward thinking that Ruby was.
She understood that history has value and that from time-to-time future generations of Bowling Green residents would rely on her first-hand account to gain an understanding about the events that shaped Bowling Green.
Though Ruby is no longer here, she will continue to have a prescence at 106 W. Main Street, because each time we open our archives, or stumble upon one of her many notes to her husband, Jack, telling him to resize a picture to a certain ratio, and in all the ways we have yet to discover.
One thing we do know for sure — Ruby was a a once-in-a-lifetime kind of newswoman. Our community was made better by her efforts and frequent phone calls asking if various hoouseholds had any news. While we may joke about those days now, we all secretly know that we will miss Ruby.
Until next week,