Born and raised in Buffalo, Mickey Ruth had a longing to live in a rural area. She and her husband purchased a hunting camp with a wood stove, no cupboards and no indoor plumbing, but with a lot of work, it's now her home.
You might say Mickey Ruth caught a bug 10 years ago. It's not the kind of bug that is contagious, but it is one she willingly shares. It does not require sympathy for the recipient, but it is a rather costly disease that no insurance will cover. It is the Christmas village collection bug.
As one enters Mrs. Ruth's home the first thing they see is a display of many moving and lighted Christmas decorations.
Mickey Ruth is shown with her “Christmas wonderland” and holiday cookies.
Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland
"The first display is the church display, and that's how it started. I started with the churches and the manger, and I built on that," she shares. "I then got carolers, angels and choirs, and then I just decorated from there. I then went to little villages and then to bigger theaters and shops."
The mini real estate owner is very proud of a dated barn collection that is added to annually, as well as a wagon collection started in 2002.
"To please all people, since I live in a rural area, I have a John Deere dealer complete with the green and yellow tractors," she said.
Much of her display mimics buildings found in New York City, such as Macy's, Gimbel's and a theater whose marquee advertises "Miracle on 34th Street." She also has an Alpine Village, 11 churches, several fire stations and a quilt shop, hotel and veterinary hospital.
"I treat myself every year to a Christmas present. It is for me and others to share, especially little kids, whose eyes light up," Mrs. Ruth said.
She says she always had nice Christmases when raising her children because her husband "was a kid himself." Her own mother set up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and took it down the day after Christmas.
She opens her home to individuals and small groups of 12 or fewer, but prefers groups no larger than eight people. The hostess starts baking the first of 1,700 cookies, consisting of 12 varieties, Nov. 1 so she can treat her guests to refreshments when they come to visit her Christmas wonderland.
"I give them away, send them through the mail and serve them to the people who come to see the display," she beams. "I serve coffee to the adults and hot chocolate to the little ones, along with a candy cane."
"I'm sorry I didn't think to keep a guest book in the beginning," she says as she opens her book to the pages that contain signatures from guests who have visited from as far away as Buffalo, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Opening her home to others is no new feat. She enjoys getting involved where there is a need, especially where food is concerned and helps at funeral dinners. She has made it a holiday tradition to invite people who have nowhere to go or have no one to be with and tells them to bring friends who may be in a similar situation.
After reconnecting with a pastor friend, Father John Mears, the man who married her and her husband, she found that his church had dwindled to 13 parishioners. She put on spaghetti and ham and turkey dinners to try to promote the church and hosted picnics at her home where she provided the entire meal.
She has done a large Christmas setup for the Leon Historical Society as part of an effort to promote the organization.
Until last January, when she broke her foot, she was an avid ice and roller skater. As a young girl she taught her five younger brothers to ice skate and has taught her grandchildren to roller skate.
"Mr. Jenkins, the director of the Babcock Street Boys Club in Buffalo, let me join as the first female member because I taught ice skating. After that they started cooking classes for girls," she said.
She has never been on a trip or a vacation, but always wanted to go to Ireland or Switzerland.
"My background is German and Irish, but the best part of me is Irish," Mrs. Ruth said.
She is the mother of three children. Lynn Shanahan is a nurse and resides in Silver Creek, and Dawn Brown is married to a corporate attorney and lives in Las Vegas. Her son, Ronald Ruth Jr., is deceased. She also has five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, with most of them residing in this area. She is a member of Eastern Star, Leon Firemen's Auxiliary and attends St. Peters Episcopal Church in Forestville.
She has made the cut-out cookies for years and thinks the recipe may have originally come from a cookbook. The recipe for the nutmeg logs came from her friend and hairdresser, Debbie Nieder, and another friend, Midge Bromley, gave her the recipe for the date balls.
For more information, call 358-5778.