Ruthie. It's a name so well associated with and synonymous with
Valley that you don't need a last name. Ruthie is all the ID you
sure there are other Ruths in the valley, and I don't mean to
them, but there is, and always will be, only the lady we're saying
to today who is so well known.
As most people know, Ruthie's maiden name was Caldwell, and therein
lies a story. When you get to be my age, the stories tend to get
longer, and Daphne usually interrupts me to say, "Give them
the abbreviated version. Don't go back to Dartmouth!" But
this story begins at Dartmouth, so I have to start
One of Ruthie's brothers is Peter Caldwell, and he and I met
because we were both in the class of 1954 at Dartmouth. He showed
up for his freshman year with a badly broken leg that took a long
time to heal, but by his senior year he was skiing well enough
to make Dartmouth's 4-man alpine ski team
along with two other guys and me. And we were good enough to win
all 3 winter carnivals that year.
Pete and I were also English majors, although the school thought
I majored in skiing. With Pete's tutoring help, however, I avoided
the forces of academic retribution and succeeded in graduating.
It cemented our friendship. Along the way Pete invited me to meet
his family in Putney, VT,
where his father introduced me to whiskey sours, with embarrassing
results for me and a story the Caldwells still like to tell. And
through Pete I met his two brothers, John and Bill Sam, and his
By our senior year Ruthie had decided that college was not for
her and was ski-bumming at a farmhouse lodge in Stowe, VT. She
did some ski racing and became an excellent skier, developing
a life-long love for the sport.
In 1955 Ruthie and a girl friend went to Aspen, met two brothers,
girls each married a brother. Neither marriage worked out, but
marriage at least resulted in two great kids, Kris and Craig.
In the winter of 1966 the Waterville Company was cutting trails
liftlines on this mountain, intending to open for skiing in just
with 5 lifts, including 4 Swiss chairlifts, 2 big base buildings,
restaurant, snowmaking, and paved parking lots. It was the largest
construction project in one phase that had ever been attempted.
represented the optimism of youth. And the funny thing is that
the ski area
opened the day before Christmas 1966 with good snow, all lifts
While we were cutting trails and liftlines, I began to think
about who was
going to run all this stuff, and started to recruit people. I
got a call one
day from Pete Caldwell saying that he thought his sister ought
to come back
east, and would I give her a job. I knew she had the Caldwell
tough and independent minded, loved skiing, and knew the pros
& cons of
resort life. She started working here in April 1966, and just
39th year at the mountain, the unchallenged grand dame of Mt.
Ruthie's first job at the mountain was working with Ed Siegel,
first Director of Marketing. I thought Ruthie and Ed made a good
the ski area was launched with a lot of ink and favorable publicity,
crowds and ready acceptance in the marketplace.
A few years after the launch Ed got an offer to join the Olin
and took it, and we transferred Ruthie into the operating side
business, where she was more valuable to the Company and where
for the rest of her long career. Her specific title and responsibilities
seemed to change by the year, but she was always the principal
the Mountain Manager and/or the General Manager.
As years rolled by she became the ski area's resident historian,
its institutional memory. If Ruthie didn't remember something,
it didn't happen. She was also the matriarch, the mother hen,
looking after and taking care of her brood. But woe to any chicken
who crossed her or got on her bad side. She couldn't stand shirkers
or liars, and had little tolerance for fools.
Her work ethic was unbelievable. She was always the first person
to show up at the mountain each day, before daylight. She'd work
for a while, then take the milk run with the patrol, then go back
to work. Sometimes she had to be
told to take a day off, which she regarded as punishment.
For the past 11 years she was also the entire Human Resources
not a small job. She had handled one part of HR since the ski
and we had a ski school with a number of Swiss and Austrian instructors.
Ruthie was the inhouse expert who knew all the rules & regs
on how to import
seasonal help without incurring the wrath of the government. For
succeeded in finding and bringing in scores of kids to run lifts,
principally from South Africa, locating housing for them, arranging
transportation, and keeping them happy.
I visited Ruthie one day last winter in her office. The door
was open, as
usual, and there was a steady stream of employees with problems
big and little, that they expected Ruthie to solve, which she
notable efficiency and economy of palaver. It was like watching
approach the Pope, but these people didn't have to kneel and kiss
I did think they wanted her approval, if not her blessing.
I expect that Governor Sununu will tell you about her critical
role in the
Christa McAuliffe ski events, and Jack Williams will tell you
importance in the success of his races for Wednesday's Child.
But I'd like to tell you a little about the 31 World Cup ski
races we put on
in ten different years, including two World Cup Finals, and Ruthie's
role. The WVBBTS Ski Club put on the actual races, with help from
mountain, but the ski area was responsible for all the logistics
finances of each event.
There was meticulous planning that went into each World Cup,
and it all
ended up in a thick book given to each person with organizational
responsibilities. Ruthie was always the principal author. Not
only did it
include the organizational chart and detailed schedule for every
the national ski teams were in Waterville Valley, but details
of how they
were to be met in Boston and bussed to the Valley, and moved to
race site, and how their tons of skis were to be handled, and
rooms were assigned to what teams, and where each team would be
with their entourage, and how they would be fed, and what each
team liked to
eat, etc., not to mention the requirements and logistics of the
television crew, and race sponsors.
But the book was just the starting point for Ruthie. She had
to handle the
inevitable changes and screwups, caused by weather, language problems,
just European cussedness. Like how to get a racer who ended up
Waterville, Maine to Waterville Valley. She didn't like things
and because of her attention to detail, not many things did go
wrong. But if
anything did go wrong she took it very personally, regardless
of where the
fault might lie.
Every World Cup event that Waterville Valley staged was considered
success, and Waterville Valley was the smallest resort on the
World Cup tour
calendar. These World Cups were a source of pride for the entire
Valley community, a unifying element, and no one was more responsible
their success than Ruthie.
They always took a tremendous toll on her physically, and about
through the race week she would be seriously over-tired. Inevitably
would come when the then general manager or I would make the mistake
asking her if she would like some help, and her Irish feistiness
to the fore, and she would say something like, "You gave
me a job to do and
I'm doing it, and if you don't think I can handle it, find someone
And whoever had the temerity to offer help would beat a hasty
Ruthie's traits that stick out in my mind are:
* Her fierce loyalty to and love of her family, ski area, and
community, including the people she worked with and lived among;
* The pride she took in her job, her ski area, and her community;
* Her determination, inner strength and courage;
* Her work ethic; and
* Her love of skiing and golf.
Before I step away, I'd like to express my personal appreciation,
commendation and thanks to Tommy Day and his staff for all the
support, help and consideration that they gave Ruthie. It was
above and beyond. It was a class act, and a fitting last tribute
to a lady with a very big heart.