Each of us have two bridges we will cross in our lifetime. One when we enter the world and the other when we leave. Neither can be avoided. Every birth, accomplishment, bump in the road, hurdle, and death are part of the journey to get to the final Bridge.
Annie Louise Small Ruggs crossed her first Bridge at birth on December 11, 1931 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She was the only daughter and second child born to Frank DeWitt Sr. and Annie Diana Small. In 1941 at the age of 10, she and her family moved to Bessemer, Alabama. There she joined Allen Temple AME church under the leadership of the late Rev. Hayden.
Annie was a bright young woman and excelled academically from elementary through college. She was a product of the Bessemer School System graduating from Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in 1949. Continuing her educational journey, she attended Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics. Upon completing her degree, she returned to Bessemer and became an elementary School teacher at her Alma mater Dunbar Elementary, and later at Abrams Primary. Annie was an advocate for education, which lead her to obtain her Master of Science Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Montevallo with her daughters in tow. For over 30 years, she taught 2nd grade where she touched and made a positive impact on the lives of her students. As an educator, she held her students to the same standards implemented in her home. Believing children should be respectable and well mannered, there was no hesitation in the usage of real-time discipline. She retired from teaching in the Bessemer School System in 1992.
On August 26, 1957 Annie entered another phase of her life’s journey marrying her soulmate of 59 ½ years, Willie “Hoover” Ruggs. To this union they were blessed with two daughters, Yolanda Renee’ (deceased) born in May of 1958, and Robin Yvette born in February 1963.
Annie loved her church and served in various capacities including the Steward Board, class leader of the award winning Class#7, secretary of the Sunday School, Stewardess Board, and the Lottie Frierson (Women’s) Bible Class. In addition, she was a member of the Allen Temple Chorus and a founding member of the Allenites serving as secretary.
Annie served her community. She was a volunteer at Baptist Medical Center, Princeton for over 17 years. As a member of the Blocton Ave Block Club, she prepared and served delicious home cooked meals for bereaved families, and the sick and shut in.
Annie’s health begin to fail and she relocated to Madison, Alabama to live with her daughter and son-in-law. Every day she pushed herself on her journey throughout the house, pausing at the half way mark, the throw rug in front of the refrigerator- the “imaginary bridge”, to take a sip of water, or grab a snack before proceeding to her desired destination. Working word search puzzles was her favorite pleasure and daily pastime to keep her “mind floating.” There were many days when she didn’t want to get out of bed due to pain, or just because she didn’t want to. She would say “Why do I need to get up, I don’t have any babies to feed!” However, with a little nudging, she would eventually get up and get dressed while complaining “I can’t get the body and mind to work together today.”
Annie was a strong lady, and motivated herself to keep moving. Eventually requiring a cane, lovingly referred to as “black boy”, and transitioning to her “four-legged help” to make the daily journeys. Often on her trips from the family room to the bathroom, or from the dinner table to the bathroom she could be heard saying “come on Butty Mae (her bottom) get up, we gotta go.” Counting her steps along the way…”26”, “27”, “28”; remarking, when once the half way mark was reached, “I’m crossing the bridge.”
On May 31, 2021 at 7:30 pm as the sun was setting on Madison, Alabama she saw the banana pudding come out of the oven, the fish and crunchy fries on the table and knew it was dinnertime. Annie was preparing herself to cross the second bridge in her life’s journey. She was finally at peace and satisfied that all was well and Her family was prepared to let go. She got “Butty Mae” up, with her earthly mind and body working together, she could let go and take God’s Hand across her final BRIDGE!
Standing at the BRIDGE waving good bye is her devoted daughter Robin Yvette Miller and son-in-law Michael, her grandsons Nicholas and Nigel, brother James Small, special god-daughter Iverlynn Dudley-Benison (Eric), nieces Valerie Sykes-Burks (Ronald), Candace Torrence (Rashad) and Lauren Riles, nephew Marvin Sykes, extended family and friends.
Standing on the other side of the BRIDGE welcoming her Home are those who preceded her in death, her husband Willie H. Ruggs, daughter Yolanda Renee, brother Frank D. Small, and parents Frank and Annie Small.
Donations are being accepted for Annie to the Alzheimer's Association in lieu of flowers: