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Ruthie: A Remembrance and Tribute
 
By Tom Corcoran

Ruthie. It's a name so well associated with and synonymous with Waterville Valley that you don't need a last name. Ruthie is all the ID you need. I'm sure there are other Ruths in the valley, and I don't mean to deprecate them, but there is, and always will be, only the lady we're saying good-bye 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
there.

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 sister, Ruthie.

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, and the girls each married a brother. Neither marriage worked out, but Ruthie's marriage at least resulted in two great kids, Kris and Craig.

In the winter of 1966 the Waterville Company was cutting trails and liftlines on this mountain, intending to open for skiing in just ten months with 5 lifts, including 4 Swiss chairlifts, 2 big base buildings, a mountain restaurant, snowmaking, and paved parking lots. It was the largest ski area construction project in one phase that had ever been attempted. It 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 running and happy skiers.

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 smarts, was tough and independent minded, loved skiing, and knew the pros & cons of resort life. She started working here in April 1966, and just completed her 39th year at the mountain, the unchallenged grand dame of Mt. Tecumseh.

Ruthie's first job at the mountain was working with Ed Siegel, the Company's first Director of Marketing. I thought Ruthie and Ed made a good team, and the ski area was launched with a lot of ink and favorable publicity, good crowds and ready acceptance in the marketplace.

A few years after the launch Ed got an offer to join the Olin Ski Company and took it, and we transferred Ruthie into the operating side of the business, where she was more valuable to the Company and where she remained for the rest of her long career. Her specific title and responsibilities seemed to change by the year, but she was always the principal assistant to 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 Department, not a small job. She had handled one part of HR since the ski area opened 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 years she 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 or concerns, big and little, that they expected Ruthie to solve, which she did with notable efficiency and economy of palaver. It was like watching supplicants approach the Pope, but these people didn't have to kneel and kiss her ring. 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 about her 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 key role. The WVBBTS Ski Club put on the actual races, with help from the mountain, but the ski area was responsible for all the logistics and 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 day that 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 the next race site, and how their tons of skis were to be handled, and what waxing rooms were assigned to what teams, and where each team would be housed along 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 press, 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, or just European cussedness. Like how to get a racer who ended up in Waterville, Maine to Waterville Valley. She didn't like things going wrong, 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 a roaring 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 Waterville Valley community, a unifying element, and no one was more responsible for their success than Ruthie.

They always took a tremendous toll on her physically, and about half-way through the race week she would be seriously over-tired. Inevitably the time would come when the then general manager or I would make the mistake of asking her if she would like some help, and her Irish feistiness would come 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 else!" And whoever had the temerity to offer help would beat a hasty retreat.

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.



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