Clowning into her next century: Ruby Minder, aka Clumsy Mumsy, turns 100 with a birthday parade

Ruby Minder watches a parade of well-wishers pass her house in honor of her 100th birthday May 15.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As local resident Ruby Minder turned 100 on May 15, she celebrated by doing the thing she loves to see others do: laugh.

To help her mark the milestone, her children Maureen and Mike Minder — knowing they couldn’t throw a party due to restrictions because of the coronavirus — arranged something even bigger: a birthday parade.

They set up a pop-up canopy that Friday afternoon for Ruby to sit under, decorated the yard of her home with balloons and signs and invited friends and neighbors to drive by and wish her a happy birthday.

People in about 20 cars participated in Ruby Minder's 100th-birthday parade May 15, some greeting her by her clown name, Clumsy Mumsy.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Two firetrucks, along with about 20 cars, gathered outside Bird Rock Elementary School before making their way along Van Nuys Street and past Ruby’s house just over the Pacific Beach border from La Jolla.

With sirens wailing and horns honking, parade participants greeted Ruby with cheers and cards that a neighbor collected via a trash picker and placed in a basket for her to read later.

As a surprise, Maureen arranged for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department to participate.

“On a whim, I called the Pacific Beach Town Council,” she said, and a council representative put her in touch with Fire Station 21 on Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach, where Maureen dropped off a flier with parade details.

Ruby laughed at the procession, wearing a clown mask and waving as neighbors gathered along the sidewalks to watch.

It was no accident that Ruby donned a clown mask for her big day. After her retirement from secretarial work, she nourished her humorous side and became a clown in 1985. She found success entertaining others as Clumsy Mumsy, her clown name.

“I got into all types of homes, met all types of people. It was a wonderful experience,” she said.

Ruby Minder (also known as Clumsy Mumsy, on the scooter) and her daughter Maureen Minder (aka Cricket) clown around with their dog Herbie at the 2019 La Jolla Christmas Parade.

Maureen, who’s also an occasional clown named Cricket, said Ruby isn’t as active in clowning as she used to be, but they remain “the two clowns in the La Jolla Christmas Parade every year. We’ve done it for 25 years now.”

Ruby is “quite a character,” Maureen said. “She’ll make you laugh for sure.”

Born May 15, 1920, in Chicago, Ruby worked for the railroads and as a secretary while also dancing at USO events during World War II.

“She has wonderful stories of entertaining the troops,” Maureen said.

Ruby Minder in Pacific Beach in the 1950s.

Ruby moved to San Diego in the 1940s, where she met and married Edmund Minder, an electrician with General Dynamics, at St. James-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla in the latter part of the decade. The couple eventually chose a neighborhood on the border of La Jolla and Pacific Beach to build a house.

“They came for the ocean,” Maureen said. “My mom went boogie boarding, body surfing, all that stuff.”

The house was completed in 1953. “I put the roof on,” Ruby said, “but not the finishing touches. It took me a whole summer, and I would watch people going to the beach. I was not happy about it!”

Ruby, who still lives in the house (Edmund died in 2006), said it isn’t just the ocean she loves about living here.

“It’s the people,” she said. “They’re more relaxed. I think it’s the climate that gets them that way. We have excellent neighbors.”

Ruby Minder on her 99th birthday in 2019.

When asked what advice she has for others looking to achieve similar longevity, Ruby said: “Don’t try to cure all the world’s troubles. The main thing is just to be kind to other people, and they’ll be kind to you. Try to understand other people. And don’t borrow money.”

Ruby said young people “have a lot of good opportunity. They should grab it.”

She said she looks forward to whatever happens after 100. “I take it as it comes. That’s life for you.”◆