Weathersby offers solid family foundation
RANTOUL – It doesn't take long to realize that education is important in Ruby Weathersby's family.
Her father took until he was 61 to get his college degree, but he got it. She went to college but had to interrupt for her marriage to Walter Weathersby and their subsequent seven kids – each one of whom graduated from college.
Education wasn't always easy, but it was always the goal. Her son, Wilbert Derrick Weathersby, was told by a counselor at Rantoul Township High School that he was unrealistic to want to attend the University of Illinois.
He not only graduated with honors from the UI, but went on to earn a doctorate in computer science.
He's not the only Ph.D. among the seven children, either.
Besides the two Ph.D.s, there's a J.D. (law), a CPA, an MBA and two with marketing degrees.
Walter and Ruby, married now for 51 years, made sure their children went to church and did their homework. From that foundation, they said, everything was possible.
"I'm a firm believer that a person can do whatever he wants, and no one else has the right to dictate your success," she says.
After nearly 14 years on the Rantoul city school board, Weathersby stepped down recently. Last month, she was honored as the grand marshal of the Rantoul Township High School alumni association at the school's homecoming.
One reason for her decision to step down from the board was societal change. She believes students today haven't received all the benefits they could from their families or church in the way of moral guidance.
"Teachers have a thankless task now," she says.
Besides the church and discipline that many students lack, in her opinion, there's been a technological change for the worse in the way computers teach communication.
"Students today don't even know how to write a letter," she says.
It's a long way from being a preacher's daughter in rural Mississippi. She was a college student in 1954 when her father and Walter's mother conspired to bring them together.
She knew Walter's sister, and Walter had asked his mother to find him "some nice girl to write to."
Walter had never seen her, not even a photo, when he began writing her from his Air Force base in French Morocco.
"I guess my dad and my mother-in-law knew what they were doing," she jokes.
They married two years later and began raising a family on bases in Japan, Germany and several states. Living abroad was a unique education for the seven boys and girls, she says.
Walter's career took off. He rose to the rank of chief master sergeant, serving as a loadmaster, and won a Bronze Star for his efforts getting fighter planes off the ground to counter North Vietnam's Tet Offensive of 1968.
Walter, 74, who now works at Lincoln's Challenge Academy, was transferred to the former Chanute Air Force Base in 1981. He's a quiet presence, but has made a name in the community for his old-fashioned, charming letters of encouragement to people he's never met after reading of a promotion or an award in the newspaper.
Ruby is a longtime Girl Scouts leader and unit manager. She served on the board of the Northern Champaign County Community Service Center for nine years, and on the Fire and Police Commission for six years. She also serves on the board of Greater New Light Baptist Church and is a longtime member of the Rantoul Business and Professional Women, serving as president and district director.
Friends say Ruby Weathersby is a devoted friend in return.
Margurette Carter describes her friend as "very active in her church, a very caring person, warm-hearted and open-minded."
"Ruby is a dedicated wife and definitely a very supportive mother," Carter says. "She's a very loyal friend. Call her and she gets right over."
"Ruby is a fantastic person to have as a friend because she is a giving and caring individual," says Peggy Usher. "She cares what's happening. On more than one occasion, she has been there for me as a friend, to help with resources, or just to listen."
She shows no sign of slowing at 71. A Realtor since she moved to Rantoul, she is working on two closings despite a tight market.
"You just keeping going on and going on, and it works," she says.