Retired Dayton resident Ruby McFarland’s 94th birthday on Feb. 1 offers an opportunity to recognize a lifetime of unique accolades for her military service and rare feats for women. But McFarland’s wish is to encourage people to take a more active role in their community. McFarland, originally from Santa Rosa, Calif., has lived in Dayton since 1987. She’s an Air Force veteran who also served in the Army reserves for more than 20 years. Since being in Dayton, she’s been involved in her community, joining the Dayton Historical Society and forming the docent program for its museum. “I have been all over the world,” McFarland said Jan. 14. “I decided to see the world, and I saw a lot of it when I was in the service, but I wanted to see it on my own.” With the U.S. Army Reserve, she was a part of the 91st Infantry Division and was the only female among 3,000 men. “It was fun!” she said. “They’d ask me for a date, but I’d say, ‘If you want to buy me a beer, meet me at the NCO (non-commissioned officers) Club.’ I’d go over with all the fellas and drink with them.”
McFarland served in the 91st Infantry Division among 3,000 men. (Photo: Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal)
Her time in the service was valuable, and she still maintains her conviction about her choice to serve. “I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and fight all enemies,” she said. After she left the service, she worked many jobs, eventually coming to Dayton and commuting to South Lake Tahoe, where she became an in-house architect for Harvey’s Lake Tahoe. “I did things like change all the walls and air conditioning and plumbing and made new restaurants and just had a good time doing the general reconstruction, and they do it constantly in the buildings because they have to keep it appealing to the public,” she said. She called it “very much challenging.” She also helped to design additions for the Fernley and Dayton senior centers, as well as the former Lyon County jailhouse’s kitchen in Yerington. In Dayton, she became an original member to the Dayton Historical Society and developed the docent program for the museum, served on the Dayton Senior Center Board of Directors and founded Dayton Parks and Recreation with Jannette Hoffert. McFarland said there were three in the original docent program, including herself, Donna McElroy and Pat Neylan. “I have tried to be a good example of volunteerism wherever I can,” McFarland said. She also remained connected by having written a column for the Nevada Appeal in the mid-2000s in which she reminisced about various friends in Lyon County or Dayton’s history, thanks to her involvement with the local historical society. Today, while she is in declining health and has gone blind, she still maintains “an awful lot of beautiful friends.” Nicole DeWet, a friend and nurse who cares for McFarland, began a social media campaign to honor McFarland’s local contributions by asking Nevadans to send birthday cards to McFarland, saying so far she’s received a generous response. “She’s pretty popular in Dayton,” DeWet said. “You just say her name and everybody knows Ruby McFarland. We all love you.” “But I don’t know what you look like,” McFarland chuckled. “I don’t know how I’ve accumulated so many people who are just damn good people. I really feel blessed with the people who have taken care of me and look in on me and care about me, so I feel very blessed. “And I don’t mean to be braggadocio, I don’t want to be, but I think more people should volunteer to get things done in the community, because if you just sit back and let other people do it, it never happens,” she said. DeWet said she had originally planned to hold a birthday party for McFarland but decided to cancel due to COVID-19. Instead, she is requesting the community to send birthday cards to Ruby McFarland, P.O. Box 157, Dayton, Nevada, 89403.