Ruth Ella Garrett began her career in child care years before the industry exploded in popularity and demand. When she began her career in early 1970, it was still an unusual occurrence for women to work outside the home. Garrett began her career while her military spouse was stationed in Landstuhl, Germany.

After 30 years of service to Fort Bragg Families and 43 combined years of child care experience, Garrett has decided to retire.

Over the years, Garrett has touched thousands of children’s lives. In some cases, she has cared for the children of those she looked after early in her career.

Her time at Fort Bragg began in 1984, when Garrett worked at the only day care facility on base, the Fort Bragg Child Care Center, which used to be an old barracks building.

“At the time we were the only child care available on base,” said Garrett. “After the Fort Bragg Child Care Center, we then had the Rodriguez Center, after that I spent the remainder of my years at Prager.”

Garrett started as a caregiver, though she transferred to the position of receptionist in 1990. A position from which she retired. Garrett can recall a number of stories from her 43 years of working with newborn through school-age children. The first baby she ever cared for at Fort Bragg was Michael Devault, who was 6-weeks-old when he enrolled as the first Fort Bragg Child Care baby. Devault, now 30, is a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg.

“She’s like a mom to me,’’  Devault said. “She was a part of my life since I was six-weeks old.

“She would pick me up from day care, school, sporting events, she was a part of my Family,” Devault said. “If anyone could show you what hard work is, it is Ruth Garrett. She has always been a role model for me.”

In her time at Fort Bragg, Garrett has experienced a multitude of ups and downs.

“I’ve suffered third- and fourth-degree burns, from which I learned I had cancer,” she said. “I always love what I did, so I’d go to my chemotherapy appointments and come back to work stronger than ever. I might be down a week, but I would come back and I thank God for everything he brought me through.”

Garrett attributes her successful career and triumph over cancer to God for giving her strength and to the kids who always motivated her to get back to work.

“The best part of my job has been the kids, parents and staff,” Garrett said.

Garrett said leaving is bittersweet and her decision to retire was not one she arrived at quickly.

“I considered retiring last year, but figured I’d go ahead and wait until I reached 30 years,” she said.

Not one to rest on her accomplishments, Garrett is outgoing and motivated to remain as active as ever.

“I do have a bucket list with everything on it that I want to do that I haven’t done yet,” she said.

Among the long to-do list activities are her top four. “I want to see the Grand Canyon, see an NBA and NFL game and go on a cruise,” said Garrett, who is an avid Dallas Cowboys fan.

“It was kind of hard to say goodbye to your parents and kids, because I love my kids, I know all of these kids and their parents by name,” she said. “They say when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. I’m leaving the child care center and I’m going home; and to my kids and parents, I will never forget you, so please don’t forget me.”