Ruth’s first love is her family, which includes four sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with a third on the way. But as surely as Ruth’s first love is family, her lifelong passion is music.
Born in Chicago, Ruth knew from an early age the path that she wanted to pursue. “I knew by the time I was in first grade,” she recalled, “when I took piano lessons with my brother.”
Her big brother would abandon the piano, but Ruth continued her musical pursuits with enough fervor for both of them.
Following high school, Ruth attended The College of St. Francis, in Joliet, IL, where she majored in music. At the same time, the country was at war, and Ruth’s church provided a home away from home for the troops, hosting social events to provide a sense of normalcy to their lives.
During one of those socials, staged in 1945 at Chicago’s Navy Pier, Ruth was serving coffee and donuts when she noticed a certain young man. “He was a NAVY man!” she said, smiling with affection and pride, as she recalled meeting native New Yorker Hugh Thomas Kelly, her future husband.
The young couple settled on Long Island, NY, where Ruth taught music and piano in the local schools. Hugh shared his wife’s appreciation of music. The couple enjoyed going to Broadway shows, and attending musical theater productions at nearby Long Island University.
Ruth’s passion for the performing arts did not, however, extend to the domestic arts, like cooking. “Cooking? No, not so much,” she said, laughing. “It wasn’t my thing.” Fortunately, however, Ruth had married wisely. “My husband was in the food business,” she said. “We went out to eat … a lot!”
The couple raised their sons, and following Hugh’s retirement, moved to Cape Cod. Ruth moved to Decatur House in late 2019.
These days, Ruth enjoys watching movies, particularly musicals, like “My Fair Lady.” She participates regularly in activities, where she excels at word games, plays a mean game of gin rummy, and wins more than her share of bingo prizes.
In any sing-along, her rich, dulcet voice is distinctive. “I can do soprano or alto,” she said. “But I like to harmonize, so then I usually take the alto parts.”
Ruth enjoys Zoom visits with her family, especially singing with her 18-month-old great-grandson, Sora. Their duet of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” always finds Sora and “Gram” laughing and clapping hands in time with the music.
Ruth’s passion for music may be genetic. “All of her sons and grandchildren are very musical!” according to her son, Brian.
One recent overcast afternoon, Ruth’s demeanor reflected the weather: she was tired and not interested in socializing. But then she sat at the baby grand piano, located just outside her apartment. As soon as her fingers touched the keys, she threw back her head, flashed a big grin, and began playing. Yes, music is, indeed, Ruth’s passion.