All our woven Hats have been made by an amazing guy named Reuben (Ruby) Spitz in his shop in the old industrial section of Newark, New Jersey, just a short drive from our place. Ruby's been gone for a while, and until 2021 we didn't even look for another Hat Maker.
We worked with Ruby for a few years, and really got to know him over lunches and dinners and shots of the vodka he loved. I never asked whether he drank vodka with lunch every day, but he did when we had lunch together. Ruby expected Alex and me (but not Debby) to go shot-for-shot with him, and so we did. I'm not much of a drinker, and a meal with Ruby had me buzzing, although it didn't seem to affect him.
Ruby was an 11-year old boy in Belarus when the Nazis, before his eyes, murdered his parents and killed his dog. Ruby escaped to the forests and joined the Resistance. The movie DEFIANCE, with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, tells the true story of the Bielski Brothers, who led a band of civilian Jews that lived out the war in the forests of Belarus. Surviving their fights with the Nazis and the fierce northern winters required almost unbelievable determination and wit. Ruby spent the war years as a member of a band of teenage boys who lived in those same forests and fought the Nazis and sometimes joined with the Bielskis. Ruby's accounts of his youth in the forest, what it was like and what went on in those years, were extreme, and extremely moving, to say the least.
Among the people wearing WeatherWool are several US Military SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) Instructors. I am guessing they could have learned a lot from Ruby.
Even in his late 80s, Ruby was still pumping iron, packing heat and ready to mix it up with anybody who had it coming ... an absolute fireball. Because of his early years, he viewed just about everyone as pampered pansies who didn't appreciate what we have in the USA. Who could blame him?! He was proud that his grandsons were cage fighters.
Ruby had about 60 great years in America, but when his wife of 53 years passed, he was devastated, and truly, I could see the life draining out of him.
For many years, Ruby was collecting money from some kind of Nazi reparations fund. He told me the checks arrived monthly, and that he never had, and never would, touch that money. He planned to give it to charity.
Ruby was an unforgettable character, and held in high regard by a great many. Once, a woman who had her own line of hats asked us who made ours. When we told her, she said "I love Ruby."
Ruby didn’t want me taking his picture, so one photo was taken when he wasn’t aware, and the other when he was scowling at me!
26 April 2021 --- Ralph