Waters was born in Salt Lake City. She spent most of her childhood in Holladay, Utah, a town named after her own great-grandfather, John Holladay. The oldest of six surviving children, Waters was raised with five younger brothers, an upbringing she says allowed her to fit in with the boys while still thinking that the world was her oyster.
“I was the regular Pollyanna type,” she said.
Waters’ mother taught her to read while she was young and she still loves reading today. It runs in the family.
“My children are readers,” she said. “And my grandchildren are readers.”
During her school years, Waters says she “stuck out like a sore thumb.” She was smart, regularly earning good grades. However, she was popular with the boys as well. “Heck, I could play touch football,” she said. “I had five brothers.”
Waters said that one of the boys who always liked to dance with her told her that he enjoyed it because she danced like she was on the football field.
“That was the best compliment I’d gotten,” she said.
When she was in her teens, Waters’ family moved to Idaho to start a dairy farm. But she only lived there for four months before heading to Maryland for college. “I was going to be an actress or a writer,” she said.
Then World War II broke out. Waters joined the U.S. Navy through a program called Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).
“Back then, women weren’t allowed to join until they were 20 years old,” she said. “I signed up on my 21st birthday.”
She spent a total of six years on active reserve duty with the Navy, performing a variety of jobs that included recruiting and writing training manuals for submariners. She was one of the top performing recruiters in the northwestern United States, she says.
During her time as a recruiter, Waters met her husband, Joe Waters. She passed him one day on base and he caught her eye. When she asked someone else who he was, she says she was surprised to learn that she had been talking to him on the telephone regularly, whenever one of her new recruits needed a physical exam.
“He had a beautiful voice,” she said.
Soon thereafter, Joe told her that he had something he needed to ask her, arranging a date for the following payday.
“It was eight days away,” Waters said. “I couldn’t wait.”
They met at a small restaurant where they sat down to eat. Joe’s first question was why she was so hard to get along with. He had been told that by the PR chief, who, she says, expected her to act as a model for photo shoots.
“I was a professional,” she said. “If he’d wanted me to sit down for an interview, I could have done that. But I wasn’t some chorus girl.”
Apparently her answer did the trick because she and Joe were eventually married and had three daughters, each born just more than a year apart.
After she left the service Waters worked a variety of jobs. In Great Falls, Mont., she responded to an ad in the newspaper. She says she didn’t realize at the time that the job was in sales. However, after only a few days training she proved herself to be an adept saleswoman. She and Joe even owned a Sears store in Washington for 10 years.
No matter what she was doing professionally, Waters always found herself involved politically. She served as the president of Business and Professional Women’s Club in the 1970s. She worked on several major political campaigns, including Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth, Idaho Congressman George Hansen, and former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
As they grew older, Ruth and Joe spent several years in Arizona, trying to escape the cold winters. While there, Waters served on the human services board, did work for the United Way and was an ambassador for the local Chamber of Commerce. She also worked on a re-election campaign for the mayor of Apache Junction, Ariz. But after Joe passed away in 2000, Waters’ daughters pushed her to move to Moab.
“I didn’t really want to come to Moab,” she said. “But it was closer to my kids.”
Waters has continued to be active during her time here as well. She has served as the president of the Moab Friends of the Library. She continues to write to state legislators and congressional representatives about issues that she feels are important. Just a few months ago she finally retired from her job offering samples at City Market.
“It was getting too hard on my knees,” she said.
“People are always telling me, ‘you’re awesome,’” Waters said. “I’m not awesome. I’m just blessed.”