Mother of the Year an intrepid spirit

Published 7:28 pm Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ruby Daniels Pippin, selected by the Washington Daily News as the 2012 Mother of the Year, accepts a bouquet donated by Piggly Wiggly for the annual award. (WDN Photo/Ashley Vansant)

They say she cooks the best friend chicken and collards in eastern North Carolina. She remembers every birthday of her 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren and never fails to send them a crisp $5 bill on that special day. She’s mastered many skills over her many years — farming, cooking, sewing, quilting, upholstering, refinishing furniture — but none of them greater than being the best mother she could be to her five boys.

Ruby Daniels Pippin was selected as the Washington Daily News 2012 Mother of the Year. Born in Bath in 1917, Pippin’s 95 years are a testament to strength, self-sufficiency and a life spent “doing for others,” whether that was learning to make clothes for her three younger sisters at the age of 10, contributing to the family income by selling produce and chickens she’d raised or stitching the quilt auctioned every year at the Asbury United Methodist Church annual bizarre.

Ruby Daniels is a do-er, and according to her boys, she did a great job raising them.

The five boys — Colby, Ray, Don, Gordon, and Freddy — along with as much family as they could gather, descended upon the Pippin family farm Saturday to celebrate the matriarch of the Pippin family with a bouquet of flowers presented by the Washington Daily News and an early Mother’s Day supper at The Hitch’n Post in Williamston.

Family get-togethers are standard fair for the Pippin family. Christmases, birthdays, Mother’s Day gatherings are rarely bypassed, as Miss Ruby welcomes all the boys and their families home to the farm that’s been owned by the Pippins since 1898. Miss Ruby has worked that land most of her life, growing strawberries, flowers, fresh vegetables and raising chickens. Her boys worked it right along with her.

“Growing up it wasn’t a matter of ‘Did you want to work,’” said Gordon Pippin. “It was just assumed.”

For Colby, Ray and Don Pippin, one of those chores was shelling pecans every Friday for the brownies their mother took to the Saturday curb market in downtown Washington in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a chore they had to finish before going out that night. The younger boys, Gordon and Freddy, counted among their chores shelling butter beans for 10 cents a quart, also carried to market.

Those memories, even of chores, carry much weight with the Pippin boys.

“All the times with my mother are just special,” said Freddy Pippin. “Every time I’m with her. The older I get, the more I think that.”

Brother Ray Pippin feels the same: “Ever since I can remember, I love all the (memories). She’s been a good mama.”

In the family stories, Miss Ruby’s intrepid spirit can be found as Don Pippin recalled a Pamlico Sound fishing trip on which a seasick passenger required that the boat Miss Ruby was on return to shore. Then 85-years-old, she had no intention of returning to shore while the fish were biting, so out there in the rolling swells of the sound, she nimbly made her way from one boat to another and continued fishing.

It was Colby Pippin, eldest of five boys, who spent a Saturday evening writing a letter to the Daily News, outlining why Ruby Pippin is Mother of Year.

“Sacrificing has always been the driving force behind my mother, by putting family and others first above her wellbeing, by getting up early and working late into the night to get the task at hand completed. This is what makes her special and well loved by all that come in contact with her,” wrote Colby Pippin in his letter.

Colby Pippin moved home from Washington, D.C., several years ago and now lives a mile and a half down the road from his mother. Ray Pippin lives a mile and a half in the opposite direction. Between the two, the farm’s chores are divvied up.

This weekend, Ray Pippin plowed the four rows reserved for this year’s crop of Miss Ruby’s infamous collards.

As much as the Pippin boys adore their mother for all she’s done for them, the feeling is obviously mutual.

“They’ve been wonderful boys,” said Ruby Pippin, surrounded by her sons, their wives, her grandchildren, and a few great-grandchildren. “I can’t do enough for them.”