FAIRBANKS — Ruby Riddle, the Golden Heart City’s official “hostess” for her near-perfect attendance at local meetings, celebrations and military ceremonies, died Thursday at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Riddle, who was in her 80s, was originally from North Carolina and worked in sales at the Northern Commercial Company, Nordstrom and Lamonts before retiring and receiving the honorific “hostess” title from both city and borough assemblies. Friends remembered her Thursday for her elegant dress, her close watch over local politics and her love of photographing events — often delivering her photographs in envelopes neatly signed “Miss Southern Ruby.”
Riddle did not have any relatives in Fairbanks, but a group of friends, including both Fairbanks borough and city mayors and borough clerk Mona Drexler, were at the her side when she died.
“She had a full life,” said borough mayor Luke Hopkins. “She was always going somewhere in the community. I’m glad she had friends around her during her last moments.”
Former city councilwoman Donna Gilbert was a teenage customer at Northern Commercial Company when she first met Riddle as saleswoman. Gilbert went on to advocate the creation of a formal office for the city’s hostess.
“This is a lady who stayed involved in everything in this town,” she said after hearing of Riddle’s death.
“When she retired I would have bet my bottom dollar that she would have gone back to the south where she originated from and stayed warm. But she loved Fairbanks. She loved the people and nothing could have moved her out of here. She was a part of this community,”
Riddle had been in the hospital since Tuesday evening, Hopkins said. Tuesday afternoon she was in attendance, as usual, at the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce luncheon, although she left early because she said she was feeling sick, said Frank Turney, a neighbor of Riddle’s who shares her habit of regularly appearing a local meetings.
On Thursday night, there were plenty of wet eyes at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly’s work session. Riddle’s chair, at the entrance to the assembly chamber, was empty.
A simple lavender vase with a small arrangement of pink and white flowers sat, ringed by pieces of candy that she would often hand out. Presiding officer Diane Hutchison read aloud a resolution that had been passed by the Borough Assembly in 2006 that made Riddle the official hostess of the borough and held a brief moment of silence.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. News-miner writer Matt Buxton contributed reporting.