When it comes to flourishing in the later years, Ruth Carroll’s example is one to follow.
A few things are unchanged since she was featured as “Someone You Should Know” in The Alabama Baptist seven years ago. Her favorite hymn is still “Amazing Grace,” and Psalm 23 remains her top pick of Scripture passages. Both are dear to her heart.
But a lot has changed too. For one thing, in February she celebrated her 95th birthday. Her years of widowhood have increased to 31 after 49 years of marriage to Marcus. She has two daughters and a son; five grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren; but the number of great-great-grandchildren has doubled to 12.
There is the adjustment of more dependence upon family, and her children are her right-hand helpers as she navigates challenges.
On good days Ruth can be found at church or working in her yard. Reading and praying for others are additional ways she engages her time.
Sunday dinner tradition
“I always took my children to church, and when we came home we enjoyed Sunday dinner with all the trimmings,” Ruth remembered. “Then, when my children were grown, I told them if they would go to church I would have everything prepared for Sunday dinner at my home. They took me up on the offer.”
Her daughter Janice said the tradition continues.
“Mom has turned over most of the preparation to other family members, but she helps in the kitchen on Sunday morning as much as possible. She enjoys preparing cornbread and making a pot of coffee. About 11, sometimes more, gather every Sunday after church.”
Ruth chimes in, “And Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the holidays.”
It’s apparent this tradition is meaningful to her. There is a note of pride for the many years her family has gathered and gratitude she can still participate.
A legacy of service
This marks 65 years of Ruth being “on mission.” She has served in various leadership roles within Woman’s Missionary Union: director at her church and at the associational and district levels, executive board member, Acteens and Girls in Action leader at her church and state Acteens leader.
When she was a member of Chalybeate Springs Baptist Church, Carroll was a teacher for every age group in Sunday School, a choir member and a Vacation Bible School helper. She served in many other roles, and her service continued when she joined Mount View Baptist Church in 2010.
Her pastor, Mark Milwee, said, “Mrs. Ruth Carroll is a role model of faithfulness and consistency.”
Before the pandemic, she regularly attended church, though now it can be a challenge.
As Ruth reviewed her life of service, she recalled her work with a lay renewal team for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. She took three trips to Alaska and also traveled to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Project mental health
In 1970, Carroll helped her church’s first Acteens group plan their first missions project. That year marked a change in WMU’s ministry to girls. Girls ages 12 and up moved from GAs to a new missions group, Acteens. Right away they wanted to do something special for somebody.
Under Carroll’s leadership, the girls organized a party for women who had mental health challenges. They invited six women to the church and prepared gifts for each of them.
“This was a new endeavor for me at that time,” Ruth recalled. “I’ve now done the party 51 times. This is the first year that I am not serving as a leader; I’ve moved into a mentoring role.”
Over the years, the party for outpatients of the local mental health center (male and female) has grown. It’s now an annual event held at a different church within Muscle Shoals Baptist Association. Volunteers prepare and serve lunch and provide items for the gift bags.
Ruth chuckled and said, “They’re heavy too!”
Her advice to readers is simple: “Do whatever the Lord leads you to do, and you’ll be okay.”