A passion for cooking has always been something that has ran in Ruby Harvey’s family. Moving to the Kankakee area from Mississippi in 1965, her father was a truck driver and her mother was a cook at the Manteno State Hospital. In 1976 when Ruby was just 17 she got her first job at PSMH and has been here ever since. For nearly 40 years, Ruby has done everything in the kitchen from dishwashing to her present supervisor role.
Growing up in the South, Ruby definitely has a gift for cooking some old fashioned southern food. Her go-to dish would be fried chicken, greens and cornbread, but she also loves cooking some ribs, chicken and dumplings and finishing it off with a nice jelly cake and some banana pudding. “One thing I don’t like is to see people hungry,” she explained remembering a time she bought a man at St. Mary’s both breakfast and lunch because he didn’t have enough money to eat that day.
One of the things that Ruby emphasized about her job is how much effort goes into making sure the patients and other customers are happy and satisfied. Generally, the food offered to patients is special order and differs from that on the daily menu in the café. She remembers a woman who was here visiting her husband who was an inpatient and she wanted the same meal as him so they could eat together. Ruby went in the kitchen and granted her request, making the woman feel like home.
When asked about her 40 years at St. Mary’s Ruby said she wouldn’t trade it for anything. “It has been a great experience – I have learned and I have taught. I have been here almost all my life and absolutely love it.”
While she still has a few years until retirement, she plans to head back down south where her daughter and three grandchildren presently live in Mississippi and her aunt owns a restaurant called Doskey’s Kitchen. While she may eventually retire from St. Mary’s, we highly doubt Miss Ruby will ever truly retire from the kitchen doing what she loves.
This is Ruby. Ruby is Presence St. Mary’s Hospital.#IamPSMH