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North Carolinian celebrates her 100th birthday at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

Ahead of its official reopening on Nov. 7, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center opened its doors to Ruby Lambert to celebrate her 100th birthday and tour the stars the way they were on her exact birth date, Oct. 14, 1920.

Ruby Lambert at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
Ruby Lambert celebrated her 100th birthday with family members at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center on Monday, October 19, 2020, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Ahead of its reopening on Nov. 7, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center kicked off the celebration in good company. 

Ruby Lambert, a longtime North Carolina resident, celebrated her 100th birthday at the new Morehead on Oct. 19. She and her family experienced a showing of the popular Carolina Skies show to take a tour through the skies as they were on her exact birth date, Oct. 14, 1920.  

New safety measures and precautions ensured that Lambert and her family could still celebrate this milestone and make new memories together.  

As the children of tenant farmers who relied on the stars for their livelihood, Lambert and her siblings were imbued with admiration and fascination of the skies at a young age. 

“There was nothing more fun than to get with a bunch of friends on a clear night. We would set the alarm clock and get up in the middle of the night when we heard there would be star showers,” she said. 

As Lambert matured and married, the stars kept her anchored and connected to loved ones. As the young wife of a World War II soldier, she corresponded with her husband through the mail.

“Sometimes the letters took a couple of weeks to get there,” she said. “One thing we did was remind each other that when we looked at the sky, we were both looking at the same stars.” 

At the age of 37, Lambert started her dream career as the assistant to the CEO of a textile company called Cross Creek Apparel. After almost 30 years of employment, she retired at 66.  

Lambert and her husband also loved to host dinner parties, where she would cook and prepare food for the guests. Her cooking was so delicious that her persimmon pudding recipe waseven featured in the LA Times in 2009. The couple collected donations for each meal, raising money for Habitat for Humanity.  

Lambert’s passions, interests and wildest dreams have now led her to celebrate her 100th birthday at Morehead. 

“One night, I was trying to think of what I wanted to do for my birthday [and] one of my friends was talking to his friend [about the planetarium]. And all of a sudden, that’s what I want to do,” she said. “ I wanted to go to the planetarium. So I turned it over to my granddaughter, and the rest is history.” 

Ruby and her family have always been avid followers of the space program and Morehead Planetarium. Ahead of her birthday celebration, she recalled her excitement on the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.

“We declared it a holiday, and everybody was glued to the television. Every word they said was so precious to us. They were just our heroes,” she said. “We all kept abreast of the space program, and we are proud that the Morehead Planetarium here in North Carolina was a base for the astronauts to study the universe. When we heard about them being down in Chapel Hill, a lot of the girls wanted to go down and see if they might possibly run into them.” 

Science and education have also impacted Lambert‘s three children, who excelled in STEM courses at North Carolina universities. Her daughter earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Wake Forest; her first son, a bachelor’s degree in library science from Carolina; and her second son, an engineering degree from NC State.   

Science, Lambert said, has played a significant role in her past century — shaping and enhancing her life. 

“I am interested in everything,” she said.

Learn more about the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s reopening