If there was a hill to climb, Ruby Lee Boykin was up for the task.
Boykin, a former director for the Roosevelt and Lakeview public libraries, didn’t shy away from challenges, whether personal or professional, said her daughter Leona Boykins-Hackett of Uniondale. From being a working single mom to earning a master’s degree later in life, Boykin pushed through any obstacle that came her way, her daughter said.
"She taught me that giving up is not an option," she said. "You try and if you don’t succeed, guess what, you’ve got to get up, dust yourself off and try again."
Boykin died on Sept. 24 of heart failure at her home in Uniondale. She was 66.
Boykin was born in Camden, Alabama. Her family moved to New York City in 1965 and bought a home in Roosevelt in 1970. Boykin graduated from Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School in 1972.
In the years that followed, she worked various jobs to support her daughter as a single parent.
"My mom wanted to make sure I didn’t want for anything," said Boykins-Hackett. "She would have two or three jobs to make sure I had what I needed."
Boykin, who had worked part time for the Roosevelt Public Library, decided to run for a board trustee seat in 1982 because, as she told a Newsday reporter then, she didn’t feel like the board was listening to library staff. She won. Boykin went on to serve as director of the library from 1985 to 1990.
Boykin worked as a counselor in various social service agencies including St. Christopher-Ottilie School in Queens, her daughter said. In 1992, she began working for the Mental Health Association of Nassau County in Hempstead, first as a counselor and then as director of purchasing.
While working she began going to school and in 2003, she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from SUNY Empire State College. She followed up with a master’s degree in library science from what is now LIU Post in 2007.
In 2008, Boykin became director of the Lakeview Public Library in Rockville Centre, a post she held until her retirement in 2019.
"Ruby was proud of her accomplishments, but not as proud as I was," said her life partner of 24 years, former Newsday reporter Sidney Cassese of Uniondale.
Cassese met Boykin while interviewing her for a story when she was a trustee in Roosevelt and was immediately smitten, he said, though the two did not start dating right away.
"She was direct; she’d tell you what she thought," he said with a laugh. "She didn’t hold much in."
Boykin was a big believer in promoting Afrocentric culture and loved reading Black history books, her daughter said. She also enjoyed romance novels and traveling, Cassese said, with the two taking trips to Florida and Mexico.
"She was really good to me," Cassese said. "She was always in my corner, no matter what."
In addition to Cassese and her daughter, Boykin is survived by her sister, Evelyn Boykin of Atlanta; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her brother Israel Boykin.