Being honored as the 2013 El Dorado County Golden Rose was a huge surprise for Ruby Nixon.
“I don’t know who put me up for the honor,” said Nixon at her home off Pleasant Valley Road, “but we all went to the Rose Ball in our fancy gear without suspecting a thing.”
Nixon, 74, has lived in El Dorado County since 1964 when she married Bill Nixon. She was raised on a farm in Iowa, the youngest of three with two older brothers 15- and 17-years older than herself.
“I was a true cowgirl,” said Nixon. “I rode a horse named Pansy bareback to round-up our Holstein cows in the evening.”
After high school, Nixon was determined to go to college. Her father and brothers didn’t see why she needed to do this, — after all, she would just get married.
Nixon spurned the secretarial courses the local community college offered and found a way to go to Amherst College in Chicago.
“I lived with a couple who had a family and did babysitting and housework for my room and board,” said Nixon.
She sang for funerals for matriculation fees and earned a degree in Christian education with a minor in religion.
“With that kind of degree you could assist ministers or lead choir groups and youth groups,” said Nixon.
She quickly landed a job in Fort Thomas, Ky. with Christ Church Evangelical Reform.
“I had no social life with people my own age since I was always working on weekends, so I quit after two years and went back to Chicago,” said Nixon.
In Chicago, Nixon took a secretarial job until she became the district advisor for Girl Scouts of Chicago. “My social life was better,” said Nixon. “But there were sure a lot of divorced Catholic guys.”
Nixon tried a new approach — the Scientific Introduction Service — a computer dating service before there were personal computers.
For an annual fee of $50, one filled out a two-page application and received a list of addresses of people who matched some of your interests and requirements.
“We had to make a list of the roles and duties of a wife and a husband, ” said Nixon.
The first match was a man who wrote that he was three-times married and three-times divorced.
The second of Nixon’s addresses belonged to a man who teased her about being an old maid at 25 and wouldn’t make eye contact at the table when they met for dinner.
The third address belonged to a man who said he liked to drive his Model T across the Rubicon in the Sierra and he and a friend had made a movie of their adventures.
“He wrote me that our date would be an imaginary camping trip — I was to provide the food and he would send me the movie,” said Nixon.
When the film arrived, she couldn’t see much of her prospective suitor since the film spent more time on scenery, but when Bill Nixon arrived in Chicago, she took him to see all the sights.
“He was nice enough, but very quiet,” she said.
Later, she took her vacation from Girl Scouts and came to visit Bill in California.
“I stayed at the Sierra Nevada House which was owned by John and Penny Hassler, friends of Bill’s, and he would come over every morning for breakfast and then take me to see the sights of El Dorado County,” said Nixon.
He took her in his Model T over the Rubicon and they had a picnic in Georgetown. Then, to Ruby’s dismay, they had to return the way they had come, all three hours of it.
Despite the adventures, or maybe because of them, Bill proposed. Ruby accepted and quit her job in Chicago.
By September 1964, the two had married and were looking for a place in El Dorado County to live. Bill Nixon worked at Aerojet as an engineer.
“We found a little cabin for rent, owned by Anna and Ernest Lutz, two Swiss immigrants,” said Nixon. “They called it the honeymoon cabin and they lived in a big house on the same property.”
The two couples became good friends despite the difference in ages and looked out for each other.
“It was like having another set of grandparents for them,” said Jill Kearney, the Nixons’ daughter.
Eventually, the Nixons inherited the property when the Lutzs died and moved into the big white house from their home on Blanchard.
Ruby worked as a medical receptionist for Dr. Parker and met a lot of new friends at Federated Church in Placerville.
“Many old families go to that church and I learned a lot about the county and the history from them,” said Nixon.
Both Bill and Ruby volunteer at Federated Church, working to get housing for low-income families.
“I volunteered Bill to fix the sewing machines,” said Ruby.
She helped start the Dairy Goat Association in El Dorado County.
“Bill had terrible allergies and we had heard that goat’s milk was good for people who had allergies,” said Nixon.
She got a female goat and tried to have her bred but the goat died. A second goat was more successful, producing quadruplets. Nixon learned to care for and milk the goats and make cheese through classes with university experts.
“Goat milk is naturally homogenized and the ice cream is the best,” said Nixon.
Nixon was also actively involved in genealogy and a member of the Roots and Gold Dust Genealogy Society. Her interest in history has led to a volunteer position as a docent at the El Dorado County Historical Museum, along with her daughter, Jill, and she is the mother of local historian and author, Guy Nixon.
The Nixons have seven grandchildren who were present when Ruby made her Golden Rose debut at the El Dorado County Fair.
Her name is inscribed on the El Dorado Golden Rose perpetual trophy.
“She’s so proud of being the Golden Rose,” said Kearney of her mother’s honorary position.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.