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Service with a smile

Ruth Browning beams as the Goddard High School Stargazers sing “95 Candles” in the tune of “Sixteen Candles.” Browning celebrated her 95th birthday on Friday during the grand opening of the remodeled gift shop at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. The gift shop was named “Ruth’s Gifts & Coffee Shop” in her honor. Browning has been a volunteer with the ENMMC Hospital Auxiliary for 29 years and is the gift shop chairwoman. (Alison Penn Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Service with a smile, and an eye toward constant improvement. Ruth Musick Browning learned these values from her parents growing up in Gilbert, West Virginia. They’re still the hallmark of her life as she turns 95.

“My mother was a teacher,” she said. “My father was a doctor. They served students and patients who needed care. I always wanted to do the same. My mother rode horseback and taught in a little one-room school. After I got out of the lab school at Marshall University, they put me in that same school for one year. They had four grades. I hope the kids learned something. Then I went to town and got a job in the fourth grade. I stayed there the rest of my 10 years in West Virginia.”

As Browning was teaching fourth-graders in Gilbert, her beau was serving our nation.

“I was 24 when I married Charles Browning,” she said. “Early on in life, he worked at the mines. Then he went to the service. I married him after that. He worked for his father hauling logs to the coal mines. Later we decided to come to New Mexico for the kids’ sake. Then he got a job in construction.”

The Brownings had two children, Paula and Charles. They’ve given their mom five grandchildren. Those grandchildren have blessed her with 10 great-grandchildren.

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“My daughter Paula and son Charles and their spouses, Danny and Swanee are retired teachers. My grandkids are: a fireman and paramedic, a nurse, a ministry director, an electrician and a hair stylist. My great-grandkids are the joy of my life.”

After moving to Roswell, Browning resumed her work in the classroom. She continued to look for ways to give the students a better education and to inspire them to want to learn.

“When I came here, I started at the base,” she said. “I taught fourth grade for eight years. When the base phased out, they moved me to Berrendo Middle School. I was lucky enough to have eighth-grade history students.”

Some of her former history students will remember the best history teacher they ever had.

“We did history musicals. The kids wrote the script, made the props and acted it out. I worked with the art teacher and the music teacher. They played the music of the time. The art department made the props. The kids did all of it. That’s how I taught history. The kids had fun and so did I. It was hard work, lots of hours — we won several awards from the Freedom Foundation. I taught there for 23 years. I retired from teaching in 1989.”

Retirement was not about to stop her. Browning started looking for other ways she could make a difference.

“I knew some of the auxiliary members and they suggested I join,” she said. “I worked here before they remodeled the hospital. I was a volunteer at the gift shop. The lady I worked under was not well. When she stepped down, I became chairman of the gift shop. I’ve seen many changes. When they were remodeling this part, we moved the gift shop to St. Mary’s. We returned here in 1995.”

She’s always kept an eye out for ways to improve things. Browning wasn’t afraid to make changes, even when it cost her good people.

“They had a cigar box for the money,” she said, “and I got a cash register. One of the volunteers left. They weren’t going to learn to use a register. I lost another one when I got a popcorn machine. They didn’t want to sell popcorn.”

Most of her volunteers have appreciated the improvements she made. She’s never forgotten how important they are. The gift shop was last renovated when the hospital was. That’s been 23 years. It was time for a new gift shop.

“I thought it would be good for volunteers and employees to have something new and bright,” she said. “I was lucky enough for the auxiliary and the officers to do that. I hope people will enjoy the new look. I thought whatever I could do to make the volunteers happy and more comfortable, I wanted to do that. It’s hard to get volunteers. You want to make them happy if you can.”

After teaching school for 39 years and volunteering with the gift shop for 29 years, Browning still comes to work every day.

“I have been blessed working with great volunteers,” she said. “All the administrators and departments have supported the gift shop. The employees are very special. Being a volunteer is a very important part of my life. Thanks to all auxiliary volunteers for making my life better. I’m so proud of our director Misty and of Brooke and the officers of the auxiliary. What a treat when our treasurer Gary Borst salutes me and calls me General.”

Browning has never shied away from responsibility. She will make a decision any time she feels the need. She’s still humble enough to know that she learns as much as she teaches.

“Early on when I taught school, I never thought about being a chairperson of a gift shop,” she said. “It’s so exciting! I’ve learned a lot from others.”

Browning can be found at the Eastern New Mexico Medical Center gift shop daily. It’s now named Ruth’s Gifts & Coffee Shop. Stop by and say hi. Maybe you can sing a song with her from eighth grade.

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