Who says you can’t come home again?
After a life of travels, Ruth Wilson-Francisco returns to her roots
Sam Green/Cortez Journal
Ruth Wilson-Francisco is a free bird. She flew the nest long ago but her heritage is bound to this area. She knows when to migrate home and always returns there.
Wilson-Francisco, 52, was born in 1960 to Arthur and Esther Wilson, one of the oldest families in Montezuma County. The roots of her family tree have been firmly planted here since 1884. She is a great-granddaughter of Gus and Eva Stevenson, the second couple to marry in Montezuma County.
Today, she lives in her grandmother’s home, built in 1948 by her uncle, Paul Wilson. It sits along Road 16 just outside Yellow Jacket on 320 acres of the family’s homestead.
The Chinese Beauty Bush, planted by her grandmother, still remains in the ground and a few of the original windows have not yet been replaced.
Like the vigorous bush, Wilson-Francisco is a part of this home and its history — a long and loving family history.
“I am so lucky to have this heritage,” Wilson-Francisco says. “Even now, looking through old photos, there are some faces I don’t recognize. I wish I could ask my grandmother about them.”
She knows enough to weave splendid stories of history through the years. The stories of her family’s prosperity pour out of her. She reveals some of her own childhood tales as well.
Wilson-Francisco is one of six children raised on the farm near Yellow Jacket. Like most farm kids, chores were done before any fun could be had.
Wilson-Francisco recalls: “Mom was a teacher so education was important. Chores had to be done after homework so we couldn’t watch TV until five. We would watch ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ Then Daddy watched the evening news.”
She fondly remembers the record player being the center of attention in the home. Television had limitations, but the kids listened to records at all times of the day. Classical music, opera, folk and country were prime players.
Esther was a song bird, always humming or carrying a tune. Art could play any instrument he got his hands on. The children took piano lessons and they all played in the school bands. They were surrounded by music.
Esther and Art wanted nothing more than to have well-rounded, educated children. They pushed their kids to get a higher education.
So it came as no surprise when Wilson-Francisco left for college to pursue music and education. At 18, she went to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley to study music. The first time away from home created a trying time. “I called my mother every Saturday for 30 minutes,” Wilson-Francisco says. “I cried the whole time. I was so homesick. It got better but that first quarter was the hardest.”
She continued at UNC for a year then transferred to York College in Nebraska then to Abilene Christian College in Texas. She received an associates in liberal arts from York and a bachelor’s in education from Abilene. She came home for a year and half before entering the graduate program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There she got her masters in voice performance as a lyrically trained soprano.
Again, she migrated home. The Yellow Jacket home always called her back.
“I never stopped missing my parents when I was away. They always said I was the homebody,” she says chuckling.
Or maybe it was where she found her strength. A time of revival before her next stop.
In 1994, she would exit for the big city — New York City. The move, though encouraged, was completely impulsive. While in New York, she sang in Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Radio City Music Hall and neighborhood churches. She did everything she could to get by between singing contracts. She was a vocal coach, worked temporary office jobs and sang in nightclubs. And the work was beginning to pay off. Her career was opening up and Broadway didn’t seem far off.
But there was one place she couldn’t live without.
City life may have been exciting, but the country roots were still deep.
“I got to thinking and I didn’t want to grow old there,” she says of New York. “The city is a fabulous place to live but it’s also very lonely. I wanted to spend time with my parents while I still had them.”
She would leave the homestead once more to live in Santa Fe, N.M., Green Bay, Wis. and Denver. But a startling phone call would end her travels for good.
On May 7, 2003, her 77-year old mother had taken a nasty fall. She was airlifted to Denver’s St. Mary’s Hospital with a broken neck.
“I moved home for a month. Daddy had developed dementia. He had no idea what to do but he knew something was wrong. My brothers were too overwhelmed and my sister had a job in Denver,” Wilson-Francisco says.
This would be her last move home. She collected her belongings in Denver, then assembled her thoughts and prepared emotionally for what was ahead and what would be her new role.
“Until you are a caregiver, you have no idea what it will be like or what to prepare for. You jump in at the deep end and don’t know how to swim.”
She came home on July 4, 2003. A year and a half later she lost her father. She took care of her mother for the next seven years. In 2011, her mother passed away just six weeks shy of her 85th birthday.
“I miss my parents everyday,” she says solemnly. “That’s the hardest job you will ever love and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Taking care of them was my life.”
Wilson-Francisco’s Yellow Jacket property is long and winding. Old tractors and cars dots the landscape, and examples of the farm’s heritage.
She is currently remodeling the home so that she and her husband can live there full time.
She always returned to the home and now, it’s where she wants to remain.
“I want to die here, in the same house Daddy did. I want to have more reunions, give music lessons, throw card parties. I want to be living in the area at 97 like my Aunt Marge,” she says.
She sees her loss as a chance to gain. A chance to honor her family’s memories and legacy by completing her flight where it began.