Staying active key to life for longtime resident

Ruth (Sodergren) Orydzuk was born in 1939 on a homestead in the area of St. Edouard in northern Alberta. In fact, it was her father who delivered her, the second of his four girls.

The family moved to Prince George in 1944 and she began Grade 1 in Central Fort George. It was her teacher, Mrs. Irene Moss, who started Ruth on her love of learning.

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Ruth was in Grade 3 when they moved to the Chief Lake Road area where her and her siblings attended the Chief Lake school, a one-room log building for Grades 1-8.

Because of the distances involved in their farming community at Pilot Mountain, her father and other neighbours successfully lobbied for the establishment of a local school. Ruth and all the children from Grades 1-8 chose to name the new school the Pilot Mountain school.

Ruth said, "I loved growing up in that area. Summer was barefoot time and playing in the bush making tree forts and just having fun. We saw the occasional bear but we weren't afraid, it was all a natural part of life. We didn't have many material things, but we didn't seem to need or want them - we were happy children.

"I finished Grades 9-12 at Prince George Senior Secondary in Prince George and that meant living in the dormitory. At first, it was a culture shock right down to the clothing and having a house mother who made sure everyone behaved. We didn't just sleep there, we had to help keep it clean and help with some of the food preparation just like at home. The boys were on one side of the dormitory and the girls were all on the other side. The mandate was that never the twain shall meet.

"I did not make friends easily, but as time went by, I made lifelong friends, many of whom are in my life today."

The first dormitories in B.C. were being established in the mid-1940s under the leadership of Harold Moffat, Harold Stafford and Ray Williston and intended for out-of-town families. They were old vacated army buildings that had been moved to the area of Edmonton Street and Seventh Avenue. They were considered both successful and affordable.

After high school, Ruth met and married Stephen Orydzuk. Stephen was born in 1929 in a farming community in Alberta. He worked as a carpenter and together they built their home on the Hart Highway, a home that was always filled with music from singing and accompanied by a piano, accordion and guitars.

Sadly, Stephen passed away in 2013.

They had four daughters: Jeanette (Rob Haines) Orydzuk, Carol (Edwin) Gramlich, Linda (George) McDonnell and Stephanie (Floyde) Spencer. They have four adult grandchildren: Charles (Sarah) Spencer, Catherine, Samuel and Caleb Spencer. They also have two step-granddaughters and five step-great grandchildren.

Ruth was a stay-at-home mom until 1960 and then went to work for the Prince George Citizen for a couple of years in the circulation department. The office at the time located at 353 Quebec St. and still used linotypes (hot lead) to produce the paper.

Ruth said, "Jobs were plentiful at the time so I worked until I had another baby and then had to quit, because at that time, there was no maternity leave.

"I was actually hired by the Citizen three times over the years, the last time being when I was 42 years old. At that time, the paper was being produced digitally as it is today. I worked in different positions at the paper and retired at 62 as the classified supervisor.

"I enjoyed my working career at the Citizen - it was fast-paced, something different every day, and I worked with some wonderful people."

Ruth has always been willing to give back to her community. When her girls were growing up, she volunteered with everything that they were involved in from being a Girl Guide leader to 10 years with the Jackrabbit Cross-Country Ski Program.

She volunteered with the Canada Winter Games and the Para Nordic Skiing Championship games. She is a board member and a regular volunteer at the Mission Thrift Store on Third Avenue.

Ruth is a part of the singing programs at her church and she is a member of the Gospel Singers and the Forever Young Chorus at the Elder Citizens Recreation Centre. She enjoys singing with the groups, plays the ukulele and she is a bit of an artist on the side.

She loves to travel both locally and internationally. Because her Christian faith is a big part of her life, she recently took a memorable trip to Israel.

Ruth said, "When I was in Israel, I was so totally conscious of where I was and the history of the land that I was standing on. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about biblical and past and current history that has led to the ongoing religious and political issues of today's Israel. I had many personal moments that are truly hard to describe. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime."

Ruth ended by saying, "I recently turned 80 and my girls secretly pulled together a perfect party for me in Cranbrook. All my family attended including the grandchildren. We did many fun activities at nearby Norbury Lake including an excursion, biking and a hike to the bluff.

"I am so thankful for my family. They all have good work ethics, which I'm pretty sure they got from their dad, and are successful independent people. That includes my grandchildren. I love them all."

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