Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Goodbye Ruth Marx - May 26, 1913 - September 1, 2015

We met Ruth Marx two and a half years ago when she was walking down the street with her walker and we had the baby stroller and there wasn't enough room to pass.  So I went ahead to negotiate and so I met one remarkable woman.  We talked and when she told me she was going to be 100 years old in a few months, I couldn't believe it.  Here's the video I made then.

Watch it, it will make you smile.

My granddaughter had just been born in 2013 and Mrs. Marx had been born 100 years earlier in 1913. So when we were here to visit Z we would try to get in a visit Ruth Marx too. Every visit was delightful because of her sunny and enthusiastic disposition. So a week ago after dinner, Z and I walked down to the nursing home where Mrs. Marx lived.

There was a piano player and a group of folks singing along in the lobby. I found someone from the nursing home and said we'd like to visit Mrs. Marx. She looked at me solemnly,
"Did the family tell you?"
"Tell me?"
"Mrs. Marx passed away September 1."

What sad news. But she was 102, and fitter than my mom was at 93. And what great luck we had to get to know her during her last two years of life. Knowing her only during her second century of life, I can only imagine what a wonderful and bubbly woman she must have been in her first century.

Z was disappointed and I wasn't quite sure how much she understood. Although she's only two and a half, she is talking away. I reminded her that she had been in Los Angeles when her great grandmother passed away in July, and now Ruth Marx had passed away too. When we got back home, she ran to her mother to tell her, "Mrs. Marx passed away."

I emailed Mrs. Marx's son before posting anything.  He had sent me some biographical information on Mrs. Marx when we had first met and I wanted his permission before posting it.  He just sent me some additional information and I'll add some of that as well.

Here's from the most recent email:
The Bluebird on Her and Our Shoulder: 
Ruth Ungar Marx 1913-2015 

Better pass boldly into that other world,
in the full glory of some passion,
than fade and wither dismally with age.

    James Joyce’s words perfectly capture the vibrant essence of Ruth Henrietta (Ungar) Marx who passed away Tuesday, Sept. 1, at age 102 on Bainbridge Island. A week before she died, sitting outside by the flowers she loved she said, “I want to start doing my book reviews. I so love them.” Several days later she sat up from lying in bed and said “what a beautiful day, let’s go for a walk.” Then as we prepared to go, she laid back down and said, “I am tired, let’s go later”. The night she died we sat with her and read
some poems. She was barely conscious when we kissed her goodbye and squeezed her hand, but she squeezed it back. She wanted to burn out, not rust out (well into her nineties she bought two new bathing suits). [Update 1045pm:  I forgot to mention, this photo was taken when she was 99.]

Here's from the bio written just prior to her moving to Bainbridge Island in 2013:

Ruth Ungar Marx was born in Cleveland in 1913.  Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1914 where her father was the distributor for Carlson speedometers and Majestic radios. Her father founded Ungar Electric Tools in the 1930s, a manufacturer of wood burning pencils and soldering irons. Ruth attended USC and UCLA. She enjoyed debate and tennis. In 1936 she married Donald Marx and they moved to Lemore, California where they ran a general goods store and had a farm. Missing her family and friends, they returned to Los Angeles in 1940. In Los Angeles they founded Hollywood Shell and Toy Co., manufacturers of hobbycraft shell
jewelry and copper, aluminum and leather embossing kits. She also worked as a sales representative for Ungar Electric Tools. Tired of the big city and smog, they moved to Palm Springs in 1957 and ran the retail Desert Garden Date Shop. Several years later they sold the store and became date and grapefruit farmers and moved farther east toward Palm Desert, California.
In Palm Springs Ruth founded the Desert Mental Health Association and Community Concerts and was active in UNICEF and other civic groups. In 1981 they retired and moved to Coronado, California where she has lived ever since. Don died in 1992 and her dear friend for a decade Mac, died in 2003.  In Coronado Ruth was very active founding opera, film, book and swimming exercise groups and volunteering for decades at the library. She continues to enjoy scrabble, bridge and reading. Her daughter Nicki --an artist and jewelry maker lives in Taos, New Mexico. Her grandson Ben lives in Phoenix with his wife Cori and their children  Julien and Simon. Her son Gary lives on the island, as do children and grandchildren Josh, Stacey, Sallie and Nate Marx. Ruth is an outgoing, upbeat person with a lively interest in the affairs of the world and other people.

Here's a bit more that her son sent, but if you watched the video, you'd figured much of this out already:
Ruth had a radiant, billion dollar smile. She was an outgoing, upbeat person and a masterful, extemporaneous, communicator with a lively interest in, and curiosity about, the affairs of the world and other people.  She was a uniquely vibrant force and her own person. She loved the spirit of the poem, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.”
 She was strong, resilient, direct and honest, but kindly in the form and content of what she expressed, supported by her quick sense of humor. She was very powerful, yet in a very soft and unpretentious, yet persevering way. She spoke gently, but with self-assurance.
For whatever the turn of fates she experienced or choices she made, she was a fundamentally cheerful person. Through word and deed, in a marvelous feedback loop, the happiness inside her effortlessly spread to others and their positive response to her further increased her happiness.  Ruth had the gift of joy, an optimistic lightness of being, a gentleness of spirit and a fathomless reservoir of kindness. She offered unconditional love and support to her family and friends. With her blithe spirit, unselfishness and absence of rancor, she was goodness personified. Her enthusiasm for life was infectious.

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