Ruliff and Katharine Grass

Written by Canmore Museum

Ruliff Grass, born in Toronto in 1921, moved to Canmore in 1986. His history, both educational and work related, is involved but interesting. He was educated in Toronto and Aurora, Ontario, then University of Toronto in engineering. He played a lot of football, both at the high school level and professionally. Both his father and his father-in-law played football on Grey Cup teams, as did Ruliff. All three names are on the base of the Grey Cup. He joined the army and, in 1943, was sent overseas with the Fort Garry Horse, which of course were in tanks! Ruliff managed to be involved in some sports, such as basketball and football, while waiting in England. He was sent in on D Day as tank support for the third division. At one point, his troop ‘liberated’ a winery and confiscated a 250 gallon tank of red wine. They had dumped their water supply, and replaced it with the wine. His commanding officer, hearing of this, decided the only thing to do was to let them wallow in it! Imagine brushing your teeth, or washing and cooking with red wine for over a week!! They bartered with other groups for fresh water – four gallons of red wine for a quart of fresh water.

Ruli started his own general contracting firm in 1952 and worked successfully at heavy concrete work such as bridges, docks, water and sewage treatment plants, etc. He had a steel shop and built steel hulled boats for the harbour patrol. He also attempted to develop a hovercraft for the construction field, but due to fiscal restraints on the part of the government in 1976, the company failed. After working for another company for three years, and acquiring his real estate papers, Ruliff decided to move to Calgary to work for Pigott Construction Company, the first company that he had worked for as a teenager. 

Katharine (Cochran) Grass was raised in Toronto and worked at various secretarial jobs before joining the Navy in 1945. After the war she worked at Photographic Survey Company which was responsible for mapping a great deal of northern Canada. She and Ruliff were married in 1949 and he started his construction company in 1952. In October of 1981 they left the house they had been in for twenty-six years, tried to encourage any of the three children to come with them but as they had started their independent lives, they declined. They feel some of them have regretted the decision!!

While in Calgary, Ruliff worked on various construction jobs for Pigott Construction as project manager, and thoroughly enjoyed the job. Katy got a job with the Four Seasons Hotel, purchasing and arranging the flowers for all their public rooms. This was a fantastic job for someone who had been out of the job market for many years, other than volunteer work, and at the age of fifty-five, she had a job that not only gave her great pleasure, but gave obvious joy to the many people who passed the large arrangements she was required to make. Katy continued for seven years, and then decided that, as Ruly retired in 1988, after the Olympics, and they had purchased a weekend condo in Canmore, that they would move here permanently. Ruli was offered a job as assistant building inspector with the town and Katy busied herself with the Altar Guild at St. Michael’s Anglican Church, plus being a teacher’s assistant in grade one so that she could judge what her grandchildren were up to in Ontario. It was great fun, but she seemed to catch every cold that a child came with, so after two years, she had to stop. Her immune system just didn’t kick in!!

Katy now works as a volunteer in medical records at the hospital; holds a conversation group once a week for anyone that is trying to learn English; usually volunteers for various events that take place at the Nordic Centre or elsewhere; assists at the Golf Club when tournaments are planned; organizes the Altar Guild at the church and does the flowers each week.

Katy used to love downhill skiing, but after damaging both thumbs one year, and breaking both wrists another, she has given that up, with much sorrow. She does curl and has started weight training, and also walks as much as possible, (trying not to slip!!) Katy plays a great deal of golf and really does enjoy the Canmore Golf Club thoroughly. The views are superb, the weather delightful, and the people friendly and Interesting.

Katy and Ruli have found a wonderful group of people who like to play bridge, and some weeks they might play three times. There is a duplicate bridge group that meets once a week, and the same in Banff at the Senior’s Centre. As well, they have another group that plays contract bridge, donating proceeds of each game to the hospital, on an average of every two weeks, or more often if desired.

Life for seniors in the town of Canmore is delightful. The quality of life couldn’t be better and the thought of ever returning to Ontario gives them much worry. The only reason they would leave the valley would be if they needed help, for one or the other, by family or old friends. The services here are superior to what they feel they might find in the East. 

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 100-101.


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