Ruby Mirl Neal Kerr’s
Ruby Mirl Neal Kerr, an angel on earth, was born on April 4, 1927 and stepped into heaven on February 13, 2021 at age 93. Ruby’s generosity, cheerful disposition and quiet steadfast faith was admired by all. Her life was full of family, serving others, and relentless optimism in the face of adversity. Ruby was the heartbeat of her family. She demonstrated the meaning of unconditional love to her three children.
Ruby was born in Brownwood, Texas, to Robert Laffett Neal (7.22.1903 – 4.8.1939) and Cora Lee Pipkin Neal (6.27.1904 – 1.8.1993). She was the last survivor of this generation of Neals. She had an older sister Mary Isabell Neal Webb and three younger siblings, Alma Lee Neal Holbert, Robert Lewis Neal and Joyce Marie Neal Verron. In the family’s early years their father worked as a railroad section hand and the family moved many times near the Texas coast including Madisonville, Bedias, Rockport and Aransas Pass. While living in Aransas Pass, Ruby’s father died unexpectedly from a brain hemorrhage. With her mother earning $0.90 a day at a sewing factory during the depression recovery, she was unable to care for her children. So, the younger three went to live in the Presbyterian Children’s Home in Itasca, Texas.
Their aunt by marriage, Lois Wynne Neal (Auntie), offered for Ruby (13 years old) to come live in Dallas with them. She could go to school, as well as help her and her husband, William Raymond Neal (who owned a grocery store on 10th Street in Oak Cliff) with cooking and housekeeping while they both worked. Ruby loved school and immediately agreed even though she did not know her aunt and uncle very well. When Ruby went to live with them, Auntie sewed five new dresses for her – she previously had never had a new dress. Her Aunt and Uncle attended Oak Cliff Christian Church (OCCC) every Sunday and Ruby was happy to go along. She was very active in the youth group at the church. This early involvement at OCCC led to Ruby’s 35-year commitment to the church. She served in the women’s ministry and as an elder. She organized many events and always showed up with delicious meals for members who were ill or in need.
Ruby attended Griner Middle School and graduated in three years from Sunset High School in June 1944. After high school, Auntie said Ruby needed to work and could not go to college. She obtained a job at Railway Express and got free passes to travel. She took the train to New Orleans to see her lifelong friend, Mary Maxine Palmer. And later the two traveled to Colorado for Christian Endeavor Camp. This was the beginning of her love of traveling.
She met her husband, Lloyd Miller Kerr, in November 1949 at her future in-law’s bowling alley, Kerr’s Kliff Lanes. Lloyd was working at his family’s business and attending Southern Methodist University. Ruby got three strikes in a row and asked the handsome attendant (Lloyd) how to score them. They dated through November, got engaged in December and married on March 3, 1950 at Oak Cliff Christian Church. After marriage, she worked in the personnel department for Atlantic Refining Company which was one of the few airconditioned office buildings in Dallas at the time.
In 1952, Lloyd enlisted in the army as an officer during the Korean War and was sent to France. While her husband was away, Ruby lived with her mother-in-law, Elsie Verna Miller Kerr Porter on Allison Drive in Kessler Park. During Lloyd’s time in France, Ruby and her mother-in-law traveled on the luxury liner, The United States, to see him. This was Ruby’s first trip to Europe. While there, they visited the Eiffel tower, the Louvre and much of Paris.
When her husband was discharged from the Army, the two bought a house on Pelman Street in Dallas and began a family. It also began the tradition of “K names”, which continues to this day. Their sons, Kerry and Kevin were born before they moved to the home on Holliday Road where they lived most of their life. Their daughter, Kristi, was born shortly after the move. Ruby raised a beautiful family in this special home on Crow Creek, near lower Kiest Park. She encouraged exploration and fun in the creek behind the house. Her only instruction when the kids ran to the creek after school, was “be home by supper”. She generously allowed multiple pets from turtles and snakes to cats and a dog.
When her children were ten, eight and three years old, The Dallas Morning News featured Ruby in an article on December 4, 1964. The article was titled Busy Matron. It’s Full Time, All the time for Mrs. Kerr.
From the article:
“Her activities are not just an inspiration of the season. They are year-round. She participates with the junior society in the Meals on Wheel program of the Women’s Council of Dallas County. She was an Oak Cliff area chairman for the Dallas Association for Retarded Children’s recent campaign and is a volunteer in the art contest of the cultural committee of Operation Forward Oak Cliff, sponsoring art contests in junior and senior high schools. She works in Oak Cliff YMCA drives.
She is a member of the school of missions committee of the United Church Women and was the group’s 1962 chairman. Mrs. Kerr was director of the recent Den Mothers Workshop for Arrowhead 9th District, the workshop being held in co-operation with the Thunderbird district.
As President of the Junior Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts, the former Ruby Neal, attends meetings of the Dallas Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Women’s Council of Dallas County. She is the federation’s director of the Fine Arts department and will be in charge of the organization’s April program.
When there is a time to include relaxation in her schedule, Mrs. Kerr likes to bowl and play golf with her husband at Riverlake Country Club. She has trophies in bowling and golf and many ribbons won in flower shows, including an award of distinction.”
The article ends with, “The young, sick and elderly are remembered when community service is planned by Mrs. Lloyd M. Kerr, 3535 Holliday Road.”
Ruby’s children were born in the Baby Boomer generation and schools were being built across the county to accommodate the population growth. John W. Carpenter was the new neighborhood school in Dallas ISD and Kerry began first grade that same year. The first Principal, Mr. Carlton Moffett, recently wrote a heartfelt letter to Ruby and Lloyd. He said, “The highlight of my career was the privilege of working with great parents like you and their outstanding children… The challenge of successfully blending parents and children from neighboring schools to form a new cohesive school community was successful because of the leadership of the two of you. When the [Carpenter] PTA was organized, you supported and led the effort to include fathers and mothers in its membership rather than the traditional PTA compromised of mothers and a separate Dads Club. This decision helped bring about unity to the new school community and its student body. …each of you stepped up to serve terms as president of the PTA. With your support and hard work, you helped develop a wholesome educational environment and the children were the beneficiaries.”
Ruby was a den mother when Kerry and Kevin were cub scouts (Pack 785) and hosted the den meetings in the large back yard on the creek. She and Lloyd attended Philmont Scout Ranch twice for leadership training.
When the boys were in high school, Ruby sold her formal living room furniture and Lloyd bought a pool table. There was always a crowd of kids shooting pool while Ruby warmly greeted them with homemade queso/chips and cookies.
Ruby also had a good head for business. In 1972 she and Lloyd designed and built the Bridal and Tuxedo Gardens in Wynnewood Village. She managed the shop, buying at the Apparel Mart and serving as a bridal consultant. In the early 80’s, Ruby sold the shop and returned her focus to volunteering and raising her daughter, Kristi who was attending Kimball High School. Ruby hosted her daughter’s many drama club functions and supported her drill team activities.
When needed and time allowed, Ruby and her teenaged children assisted Lloyd in the family’s other business, Kerr’s One Hour Dry Cleaners in Wynnewood Village and laundry mats throughout West and South Dallas. The family spent many Friday nights counting and rolling quarters at the kitchen table.
Determined to further her education, Ruby began college when her youngest child, Kristi, left for the University of Texas at Austin. She first enrolled in Mountain View Community College. She transferred to The University of Texas at Arlington and graduated May 1985 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She became a wonderful black and white photographer with a home darkroom and a sculptor in several mediums. She participated in many college art shows and was admired by the younger students.
When Ruby’s Aunt Lois and Uncle Will became older, she and Lloyd added a wing to the back of their home, as well as a greenhouse for Auntie. Ruby enjoyed many hours working with Auntie in the beautiful backyard and learning the secrets to her green thumb. Ruby was devoted to caring for the aunt and uncle who raised her until they passed at age 102 (Auntie) and 85 (Uncle Will).
Ruby became Mimi in 1983 when her first grandchild, Kason, was born. There were eventually eight grandchildren and she filled the roll of grandmother with enthusiasm and creativity. Her grandchildren remember her for willingness to let them build “tents” all over the house, her refusal to make them eat “people food”, treating them to “midnight snacks (8:00pm)” of Oreos and the many times she took them out the upstairs window to sit on the roof and drink hot chocolate. All eight have an enduring love of art thanks to the many times she took them to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.
As a lover of travel, Ruby was known to jump in her red Cadillac convertible “at the drop of a hat” and drive anywhere she wanted – to see her mother on the coast, to see her son in New Mexico or go on a watercolor trip with well-known Southwest watercolorist, Naomi Brotherton. Every summer, she drove to New Mexico to bring Kerry’s children, Jessica and Kaitlyn, to Dallas for long visits. The girls speak with great love of these special times of summer fun with their grandparents and cousins.
In 1996, Ruby and Lloyd moved to Parker, Texas near Southfork Ranch. Lloyd designed and built an exquisite Mediterranean style home with barns to restore his Ford Model A’s. It was a challenge for Ruby leaving her church, Oak Cliff Christian, and so many friends, but she enjoyed being closer to her son, Kevin and wife Roycee and her grandchildren, Kason, Kolby and Kassidy, who were nearby in Allen.
With her usual cheerfulness she dove into life in Collin County. Ruby hosted countless family gatherings at her antique dining room table which sat 18, as well as many community volunteer events. She joined First Christian Church of Plano where she was active in the women’s ministry and a member of the Seeker’s Sunday School class. She also joined Collin County Republican was honored in 2010 in the Tribute to Women luncheon during the Republican Party State Convention. She was selected to receive the Ann Harrington Award given by the President of Plano Republican Women to deserving members of Plano Republican Women.
On March 3, 2009 their oldest son, Kerry Neal Kerr died at the age of 54 and it was a loss that neither, Ruby nor Lloyd, ever got over. https://obits.dallasnews.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?pid=124889878
In her 93 years, Ruby traveled the US and the world extensively. She adventured to England, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Australia. Many of her US travels were to visit her dear grandchildren in Albuquerque and touring the country on Model A trips with Lloyd. On most of these Model A trips, Ruby entered the Fashion Shows winning multiple awards for her glamorous vintage hats, dresses, purses and shoes.
Always one for adventure, Ruby backpacked across Europe with her daughter, Kristi (19 at the time). The two lived on Kristi’s student budget of $10 a day staying in Youth Hostels and got around using the Eurail system and walking. They enjoyed wonderful months touring the great European museums, castles, cathedrals and occasional pubs. Ruby made many trips back to Europe with Lloyd, Kristi, her daughter-in-law, Roycee and her best friend of more than 60 years, Doris Todd. One of her favorites was her trip with Doris to Italy where she bought beautiful glass sculptures on the island of Murano, off the coast of Italy.
In 2011, Lloyd decided he could no longer manage the Parker property and he had concerns about Ruby’s health and declining memory. So, he and Ruby made the decision to move to an independent living community. Leaving the home they had built was difficult for Ruby. It was especially hard to divest of her beautiful furniture, art and all the dishes she cherished for hosting family and friends. They chose an apartment near Kristi. With her family’s help and many gifts to children and grandchildren, she made the move with her usual cheer. Over the next few years, Lloyd and Ruby moved to an assisted living facility and then another.
In these later years, Ruby stayed active in church and was ever faithful and optimistic. The family was blessed with a wonderful caregiver, Erika Cardoza, who drove Ruby to the Seekers Sunday School class, (she was a member for 21 years), monthly women’s lunches and weekly to her beloved hairdresser, Sue Hearlihy in Plano. Ruby was a voracious reader and it took an entire team composed of Sue, Roycee, Kevin, Kristi, Kiara and Killian to keep her stocked up with books. As long as physically able, she continued to go on outings. She had a special bond with Beccye Johnson, who directed all the activities for the assisted living community. While in assisted living, she enjoyed the continuing visits from her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as visits to Kevin and Roycee’s and Kristi’s homes.
Shortly after her 90th birthday Ruby was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and although her memory failed at times, her precious spirit never did. Erika Cardoza became an even more important person to Ruby and Lloyd, during the pandemic. As a CNA, for eight months she was the only person allowed into their facility to help Kristi, Kevin and Roycee care for them. Like Ruby, Erika was a cheerful person and kept spirits high during an incredibly difficult time. When failing health and the pandemic kept Ruby from attending church in person, Erika would cue up church on Facebook live.
Lloyd preceded her in death by a mere six weeks (12.31.20). She is survived by her son, Kevin Miller Kerr and his wife, Roycee Monk Kerr of Wimberley, Texas and her daughter, Kristi Lois Kerr Leonard of Dallas.
She also leaves eight grandchildren who adored their Mimi:
Her eleven great-grandchildren are fortunate to have her in their lives:
The grieving family of their beloved patriarch and matriarch will have a public celebration of life for both Ruby and Lloyd on Tuesday, June 1, 2021 at 11:00 am at First Christian Church of Plano (813 E. 15th Street Plano TX 75074) and a private interment at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery later that afternoon. Honorariums may be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association, whose staff was of immeasurable assistance to Kristi during the progression of her mother’s disease.
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