Weekend trip endures as lasting memory of special colleague

Ruth Purdy Leslie at artist Christo's "Gates" installation in Central Park in 2005.

Nearly every day since the loss of Ruth Purdy Leslie last April, Ruth comes to mind. Some days, it is more than once. Her image is also accompanied with disbelief that I can no longer call her up, see her at an art show, or talk with her about art.

Ruth was a colleague of mine in the Art Department of the Bay Village City School District. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to work with her in the same school. I had the pleasure of having her children in art class. I also was honored to have her as a dear friend. 

My first acquaintance with Ruth was as a parent of one of my art students. I knew her as the volunteer coordinator of guest artists at what was formerly Baycrafters (now BAYarts). She was a dedicated volunteer with the Bay Education Foundation and was a member of numerous school committees. I am sure Ruth contributed to a great many other organizations of which I am not aware.

In our teaching relationship, Ruth was always there to offer help and go the extra mile. From a prayer from Ruth’s memorial service: "For it is in giving that we receive." Ruth excelled at this.

Another quote from her service: "Where there is despair, let me sow hope." Every encounter with Ruth left me filled with optimism as well as admiration for her. She always found some positives in challenging situations. Her memorial service was beautiful. The comment was made that it was so because of Ruth’s beauty as a person. There was so much good to share about Ruth.

Some of my favorite memories of Ruth are from a weekend trip to New York City. I called Ruth, asking her to join me on a visit to see artist Christo’s Gatesinstallation in Central Park. To my delight, she said yes. We had a great February Saturday morning in the park enjoying a once in a lifetime art opportunity – with sun, gentle snowfall here and there, and occasional wind billowing the saffron fabric gates.”  The visuals were accompanied with sounds of French, Spanish, Italian tourists; of children and animals. It was poetry in the park.

We had the opportunity to meet with a former student working in fashion design in the city, Grace Lanning, at the Museum of Modern Art. We also thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful music and great visuals of "The Lion King."

Ruth being Ruth, the weekend ended in NYC with a taxi trip to where the Twin Towers once stood. Ruth just needed to do that – "Where there is hatred, let me sow love." Ruth did a lot of that.

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Volume 3, Issue 17, Posted 6:36 PM, 08.23.2011