Ruby Wasson, matriarch of Alexander Valley grape-growing family, dies at 95

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Ruby Wasson lived all her life in Alexander Valley, married a boy from a nearby farm and raised a family there as the surrounding prune orchards converted to vineyards.

Wasson, 95, who with her late husband, Fred Wasson, grew wine grapes in the valley, died Thursday at her home. She was surrounded by her four daughters and other family members.

“Family was most important to her,” said her daughter, Reta Munselle of Alexander Valley.

For many years, Wasson enjoyed having two of her daughters live close enough that her grandchildren could walk over for regular visits.

Munselle said she once asked her mom how she had handled the “empty nest” time of her life. Wasson replied, “My house was never empty.”

Wasson was born in Alexander Valley to William and Rita Osborn. She graduated from Healdsburg High and went to UC Berkeley for one year. But she then returned to help her parents on their farm, which included grapes, prunes and pears, Munselle said.

Upon her return from college, a relationship blossomed between her and a neighbor, fellow Alexander Valley native Fred Wasson. The two had attended elementary school and Healdsburg High together, and Fred Wasson as a boy once had helped fix a tire on her bike that had gone flat while she was cycling to school.

The couple wed on June 5, 1940. They remained married for 71 years until Fred’s death in January 2012.

The Wassons for a time raised prunes and had a small dairy. But they eventually converted most of their land to wine grapes.

Ruby Wasson helped as needed on the farm, including keeping the books. But her focus was on home and raising four daughters.

For years she helped in organizing a fundraising luncheon as part of the Spring Blossom Tour. It was an annual event that began about 1961 and for over a quarter-century brought busloads of visitors to view the blossoming prune orchards around Healdsburg. A highlight was the baked ham and salad luncheon at Alexander Valley Community Hall, a benefit for the former Alexander Valley Farm Bureau.

Wasson also was one of the longest-serving members of the Alexander Valley Ladies’ Aid Society.

In retirement, the Wassons once drove to Guatamala to visit a friend who had been a former high school foreign exchange student with them. They also traveled several times to visit another former exchange student in Norway.

The couple also once piloted their own boat up Canada’s Inside Passage to Alaska.

Wasson enjoyed her flower garden and making a “great rocky road candy” to share with family, Munselle said.

Along with Munselle, Wasson is survived by daughters Bev Wasson of Rio Nido, Marcia Teuschler of Hopland and Kathy Fiero of Santa Fe, N.M.; by six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Memorial services are pending.

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