People

Ruth Caroline Moody was born the youngest of four children on June 19, 1900, to Richard Compton Moody and Ester Adeline Moody. 

Richard had been a men’s clothing dealer in London, England. After discovering he had tuberculosis, he came to Canada in 1870 to help regain his health and started working on a farm in St. Catherine’s, Ontario.

Richard then worked in Winnipeg as a manager of one of the first general stores north of the market on the corner of James and Main. While in the city, he became acquainted with a family of Irish immigrants.

In 1879, he travelled to Hecla, where he managed a store and sawmill. He wrote back to the family he met in Winnipeg, asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The daughter he had initially asked to marry him declined, so they sent their next-youngest daughter, Ester Adeline Moore. Richard and Ester were the first couple to be married in Hecla’s church, and they lived there happily for several years.

In 1886, the couple moved to Selkirk where they had three children, James “Jim” Moody, Harry Moody, and Myrtle Moody.

Settling in Selkirk

In 1900, the Hooker family bought the Moody home — the big, square, yellow house on North Main Street, and Ruth was born shortly after. Ruth had a happy childhood where she was spoiled by her older brothers and sister, as well as her adoring parents.

Black and white image of a young Ruth Hooker outside her home
Young Ruth Hooker Outside the Moody Home, Early 1900s, Joen Hadfield

The Moody house was set in a field, far back from the street. It had roses and lilacs in the yard, a swing on a maple tree, a green tennis court, and a screened verandah with large vines and tiny windowpanes. Inside the house were two fireplaces; one in the parlour and one directly above it in the master bedroom. Before the days of waterworks, Ruth’s brother Harry put in a gravity water system, filled by a force pump in the kitchen that had to be pumped for many hours.

Mr. Hooker was a businessman, and in 1903, he bought land and built the Moody block at the corner of Manitoba and Eveline. He opened a hardware store and called it “Moody & Sons”. Interestingly, the Dominion Bank operated out of one of the corner offices.

Ruth was a young girl when her brother Harry enlisted in the First World War in August of 1914. He went to war with many other young Selkirk men, including the Hooker boys from a few blocks away. Harry came home, but many of the others didn’t. Leon Hooker died at Vimy Ridge, and his brother Gordon came home later than the rest. Gordon had been at Fort Garry Horse and stayed in France to settle the horses before returning home.

Church attendance and activities were central in the Hooker family’s lives. The Moody family attended Knox Church every Sunday until 1922 when they moved to the United Church. The family’s investment in the church led Ruth to become the first female Deaconess of the United Church. Christianity, learning, and education became central to her life as Ruth started to teach Sunday School to children during her adult years.

Mr. Moody’s ambition was to take each family member to England, or the “Old Country”, as he called it. Mr. and Mrs. Moody took Ruth to England in 1922. When returning home, Ruth and Gordon Hooker courted for a few years before they married in 1924. They shared a home on the corner of Eveline Street and Morris Avenue. While Gordon continued to operate the Family Lumberyard next door, Ruth pursued her interest in family, children, and community.

When Ruth married Gordon, she ceased her duties as a Deaconess of the United Church, but she continued to teach Sunday School. Mr. Moody had been on the school board in Selkirk, and she had decided to follow her father’s lead. Through her work with the school board, she was able to help children and the community. She was active in her community, serving as a member and Chair of the Selkirk School Board through much of the 1940s.

Ruth didn’t drink alcohol and wouldn’t allow spirits in her home, and Gordon was happy to comply. However, he did donate the south bit of their property (which used to be the tennis courts of the Canadian Legion) so that he and his brothers-in-arms could meet to tell stories, mourn those they lost, and enjoy an after-work drink.

Family Life

Gordon and Ruth became parents in 1925 with the birth of their daughter, Helen Ruth Hooker, followed by son Frank Leon Hooker in 1926, and Richard Gordon Hooker in 1928. Shortly after the birth of her children, Ruth discovered she had type 1 diabetes.

When visiting their family cottage in Matlock, Ruth went shooting with her husband and swimming with her children. The cottage was located at the corner of Bubbling Well Road and the Gimli Trail. The days at the cottage were full of laughter and fun. These were the best days of her life.

She went on to watch her own children grow and flourish, and as she lived through another World War, she saw other children suffering. In the aftermath of the Second World War, with the love and support of her husband, Ruth fostered 37 children around the world to try and make their lives better. One Christmas, the Winnipeg Tribune wrote a full-page article on Ruth and the children she supported.

Newspaper article from the Winnipeg Tribune describing Ruth Hookers charitable act of fostering 37 children
Mrs. Hooker's Wonderful Christmas Tree, December 22, 1956, Winnipeg Tribune

Building Community

When her children’s old school, Victoria School, was being torn down and replaced, she felt that more property was needed to build a playground. She decided to donate some land to provide local children with a place to play.

In the last years of her life, Ruth worked with Elsie McKay to create a booklet commemorating Selkirk’s 75th anniversary. Writing was a passion of hers, and the typewriter Gordon gave her held a place of pride in their home office. Ruth spent many hours writing the stories of Selkirk as they came to be. She loved her hometown but mostly, she loved the people in it.

Ruth passed away in 1957 at age 57 due to her battle with type 1 diabetes. The Hooker plot is placed right outside the doors of the St. Clements Church.

When children play on the playground of Ruth Hooker school, Ruth’s memory and the legacy she left on Selkirk continues to live on. Ruth’s family still lives in Selkirk, and some are now spread out across Canada and the USA.

Ruth’s ambitious spirit carried onto her great-granddaughter, Jessica Hadfield. Jessica became Manitoba Hydro’s first female lineman in 2013. Hadfield’s name and legacy are added to the list of women breaking barriers in our community.

Ruth Hooker Collection

Sources

Father and Mother and the Square Yellow House by Ruth Moody Hooker, 1948