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RUBY LEE HENSON KARNES

Ruby Lee Henson Karnes

Ruby Lee Henson Karnes was born at home on March 28, 1930, in Etheridge,
Tennessee, to Robert Theo Henson and Flora Bell South Henson. She was the middle
child of three girls and would later have three girls of her own.
She spent her early childhood in a house on the top of a hill in Pleasant Valley,
Tennessee. She crossed a creek at the bottom of that hill to attend school and church.
As a young girl, she liked playing hopscotch, jumping rope, and playing with dolls. When
she was twelve years old, she moved to Townley, Missouri, and lived in a green house.
She and her sisters lived close to girl cousins and friends, and thus the town was
affectionately called “Girlsville.” She was educated in a two-room school house in
Liberty, Missouri. From seventh through twelfth grades, she picked cotton every
autumn. In high school, her favorite subject was algebra; she also yearned to represent
her school on the basketball team but was told she was told she was “too little.” She
graduated in 1948 from Malden High School.
Ruby and her older sister, Gladys, eloped with their beaus on January 2, 1950. She
married Charles Edward Karnes and began housekeeping in Malden, Missouri, in an
apartment that rented for fifteen dollars a month, which was five dollars a room. She
spent her married life in Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi, working in
various factories and stores. She delighted in raising her three daughters, Charletta,
Teresa, and Angela, and helping care for the children of her sister, Reba Owens, who
usually lived nearby.
In 1967 she moved to Clinton, Mississippi, where she lived for the rest of her life. She
lost her husband to lung cancer on February 28, 1971. A romantic at heart, she never
remarried, despite receiving several proposals, for she wanted to marry only for true
love, not just to cook and clean. She supported her young daughters as a seamstress,
making window treatments both at Batte Furniture Store and at home in the living room
that she had converted to a sewing room. She later was a clerk at Gayfer’s (now
Dillard’s) department store where she worked for twenty-three years. She also worked
as the part-time secretary at the Clinton Church of Christ. After retirement, she sewed
pillows and home accessories for Premiere Fabrics in Jackson, Mississippi.
Ruby was very talented. Until a few years before her death, she made in her sewing
room lovely bedding, pillows, aprons, dog bandanas, and other things to sell and give to
others. She was a member of the Bookworm Stitchers at the Clinton Public Library for
many years. She helped this group design and sew the Mississippi quilt displayed at the
Clinton Welcome Center, where she also volunteered. She created a hand-made quilt
for each of her children and grandchildren. She crocheted numerous hats and blankets
for babies and children at local hospitals and made afghans for family members and
friends.

She was active in her church and loved attending every chance she could. She taught
Sunday school, created bulletins and bulletin boards, kept attendance, sang loudly
(occasionally on key), and helped people (even older than herself) find the correct page
in their song books.
Ruby thoroughly enjoyed her grandchildren: Jason and Sarah Dill, who lived in the
same town as she did, and Charlie and Samuel Kellum, whom she would visit regularly
by traveling the Amtrak train to New Orleans. She was blessed to be a great-
grandmother when James Dill was born. She especially enjoyed rocking babies, her
own and others. The children in her neighborhoods and churches loved “Mrs. Ruby.”
She also enjoyed water aerobics, gardening, and caring for her beloved dogs.
Later in life, Ruby suffered from broken bones and a faded memory. This was a hard
change from her previous very active and productive lifestyle. Those who knew and
loved her helped her to the end. Her “brothers and sisters” from her church and the
ladies of the Bookworm Stitchers provided support, transportation, and true friendship
when she needed them the most. Ruby was cared for by family, friends, and
professionals at the Clinton Healthcare Center until her death on March 20, 2020. She
will be remembered by those who knew her as a woman who loved her church and
family above all else.
In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her sister,
Gladys Abel, son-in-law, Jay Dill, and nephew, DeWayne Owens.
A graveside service will be held on March 27 in Malden, Missouri. Due to the
coronavirus pandemic, a celebration of her life will be held locally at a later date.

 



Ruby Lee Henson Karnes
March 28, 1930 - March 20, 2020

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