“We were up before the sunrise getting ready for confirmation,” Duling, 23, Pittsburg, said. “I drove her over [to the church], and she was so excited. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but we laughed and it was kind of cool because we got to watch the sunrise together, and I remember her making a comment about that. It was a good morning.”
Ruby-Ann Milliken, 16, Waverly, died Nov. 3 in a single-vehicle wreck southeast of Williamsburg. The exact cause of the wreck might never be known, investigators reported Friday.
What won’t remain a mystery, Karen Milliken, Ruby-Ann’s mother, said Monday, is her daughter’s commitment to her faith, family and friends.
“She was pretty much an open book,” Milliken said. “Her world was right there, and she didn’t keep much to herself. Everybody was her family.”
The Waverly High School sophomore not only made a point to be active in her school by participating in such organizations as Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Council, Seatbelts are for Everyone (SAFE), Scholars Bowl, volleyball, basketball and track, but also helped out her family. At her parents’ machine business, Milliken Enterprises, Waverly, Ruby-Ann left lasting memories, Steve Milliken, her father, said.
“During the summer, she helped what she could,” he said. “She cleaned the shop and helped me straighten out the paperwork I had or whatever she needed to do. We have a whiteboard out here where we would write down things that we had to do, and there was never any room to write because she always came out and changed the date on the whiteboard everyday and wrote a quote up there for us. We always looked forward to that.”
Among the quotes left behind was a posting on a Twitter account for Ruby-Ann, which read, “Laugh, Smile, Love, Have Fun, Live Like You’re Dying ... Cause you are, you just don’t know when. It may even be before you’re done reading this! So have a good time!”
As a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, 508 Pearson Ave., Waverly, Ruby-Ann made faith a focal point of her life.
“She just had her confirmation, and there were several other kids in her class and other classes that all just did that,” Karen Milliken said. “I don’t know if she made it cool or what, but it was cool to believe in God. She wasn’t afraid to let people know.”
Milliken recalled a recent memory of her daughter in her school’s parking lot.
“She was laying on the hood of another girl’s car out in the parking lot of the school reading her book and praying the rosary,” she said. “She was just laying out there in the school parking lot, just smiling as big as can be.”
Steve Milliken agreed his daughter had her priorities set.
“God, family, friends — that was her order,” he said.
The highlight of her summer every year was Camp Tekakwitha church camp at Praire Star Ranch in Williamsburg.
“Every time we would pick her up and she would rattle and rattle and rattle about all the stuff that they did,” Karen Milliken said. “Basically, she was already telling you when she was going next year.”
Her friends and classmates from her youth group and school were very important to her, but Ruby-Ann connected with all kinds of people, Steve and Karen Milliken said.
“She could talk to people of the older generation just as easily as she could to kids her age or younger,” Karen Milliken said. “There was no gap in communication. One of the [sympathy] cards we received was from an elderly lady in town, and she said she so enjoyed her conversations with Ruby-Ann.”
Besides her quirks — such as her love of all animals, being outside and making sure everything had a first, middle and last name — one of Ruby-Ann’s best qualities was to be inclusive among her peers, her mother said.
“She could always find the good in anybody,” Karen Milliken said. “Anybody that was kind of an outcast, those were the people she radiated toward. She would go visit with them or go talk to them and help draw them in to whatever was going on. No one was ever left out when she was around.”
Even as a sophomore in high school, Ruby-Ann had a plan for her future.
“Two years ago, she had a knee surgery — torn MCL and meniscus — and she had to go through some extensive physical therapy,” Steve Milliken said. “So [studying physical therapy] is what she wanted to do. She had already researched schools and [the University of Kansas] is where she was wanting to go.”
Duling said her relationship with Ruby-Ann was a little different than with most siblings.
“I think normally younger siblings look up to the older siblings, but there are a lot of things I model after her and definitely will continue to do so,” she said.