Ruth D. Easton
Ruth D. Easton (1921-2022)
Family and friends are thinking about the long life of 100-year-old Ruth Dorrell Easton, who recently died in South Burlington, Vermont. Her life spanned a full century, in which her mother and other American women had the right to vote for less than 6 months when she was born in March 1921, and in which Ruth spent a long time towards the end of her life.
The second of Mabel Leigh and Harold M. Dorrell’s four children, Ruth grew up in a small New Jersey town by the Delaware River, where her mother was an elementary school teacher and her father a pastor. He was a child and a teenager during the Great Depression, during the years of scarcity that fundamentally shaped his character. Describe it as just one example: Unemployed men came to the back door of the parish and asked for food, and her mother never refused someone without giving her food, no matter how little she had for her own family. The deeds of deep compassion and kindness that exemplified his mother’s life sewn him into Ruth’s being.
Ruth loved to study, was an excellent scientist, and graduated from high school at the age of 16. He earned a full-tuition college scholarship by winning an IBM-sponsored national essay competition. (Decades later, he taught math to the grandson of IBM’s founder, events always worn him out.) He enrolled in Temple University’s nursing program, but his college career was interrupted halfway by a surprise attack on true love. They met in the parking lot of Buckingham Friends School, where Bob Easton was a teacher at his first post-college job, and Ruth gathered two students to take care of that afternoon. Cupid’s arrows immediately flew in both directions and got married within a year, just a month before Pearl Harbor. Continuing to study as a college student at the time was simply not open to married women, and there was no chance of Ruth’s nursing program if Bob was in the picture.
During World War II, Ruth and Bob lived in a rural area near Trenton, NJ, where Bob was the chief security engineer at a former General Motors plant that had been converted to manufacture Grumman bombers. He went to work every day on a bicycle with gasoline and food, raising chickens, rabbits and a large Victory Garden. By the end of the war, they had two children, Susan and Tom, who were holding their mothers on their toes.
The common values of Ruth and Bob supported their nearly 70-year marriage. Family has always come first, and building lasting friendships has been a priority; openness to others, enjoyment and learning by others regardless of background; teaching, learning and working with children; nurturing creativity in itself and in others; spending most of the day outside, paying attention.
When offered the opportunity to return to teaching shortly after the war, Bob enthusiastically agreed to take a job at Eaglebrook, a boy boarding school in Deerfield, Mass., Where he and Ruth and their growing family – Richard two years then arrived. it has been rooted in more than three decades of moving north. Here they raised not only their own three children, but countless others as teachers and dormitory parents. A former student who came to Eaglebrook from Central America and is now in her 70s still remembers the magical moment Ruth woke her up from bed after the lights were turned off and led her out to see the snowfall for the first time.
Ruth’s talented math teacher talent was first manifested in simply helping the dormitory boys with their homework; the School then employed him as an official math teacher, and a few years later, when a regular math teacher went on maternity leave, she took over the lesson. His career was born as a prestigious mathematics teacher and later as head of department. His students appreciated his ability to smooth out the web of dreaded textual problems and increase their self-confidence that they would eventually be able to run through any textual problem or calculation without his help.
From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, the family migrated to the Pocono camp every June, where Ruth was the camp’s dietitian, and Bob worked there for many years as a camper and then as a consultant, a member of the senior staff. Although Ruth was never a camper, and living in an unnecessary tent in the Army was not fun at first, her tenacity and kind nature eventually made her appreciate the summers spent outdoors. In the early 1960s, Ruth and Bob set up their own boys ’camp, Wohika, on Danby Pond in Vermont. Continuing to spend summers in the Army’s redundant tent, Ruth cared for a huge vegetable garden and planned and cooked meals for 25 to 45 people a day, depending on how many were out on canoeing or hiking. But he understood when one of the parents reported excitedly that his son, who had always been willing to eat the beets, had returned home from the camp demanding fresh beets!
When Ruth and Bob retired in the early 1980s, Ruth showed her resilience again when Bob, a lifelong masterpiece of woodworking, built their new home on Danby Pond with the care, precision, and investment of time in designing and spent on design. building a small house trailer from scratch and countless great pieces of furniture. Eventually, they were able to move out of the camp’s uninsulated main cabin into the basement of their new home for several years, and finally from the basement to the well-insulated main floor. The second floor remained a wood storage until Bob’s death in 2010, when Ruth made sure the house was completed.
Ruth and Bob’s retirement years have been colored by visits from former colleagues, students and campers, as well as family members who are now crowded. Their three children were married (Susan and Perry Hanson, Tom and Kathy Easton, and Richard and Lee Easton), followed by six grandchildren and finally their spouses (Kristin Hanson and Bill Martin; Erik and Meg Hanson; Sharon Easton; Brian and Kathryn Easton) and Zachary Easton, Gregory and Julie Easton, ten great (Will Hanson, Luke Hanson, Linda Wolff, Jeffrey Wolff, Julie Wolff, Mary Easton, John Easton, Hannah Easton, Isabella Easton, Madeline Easton) and one great (Aurora Wolff). In less than three-quarters of a century, Bob and Ruth’s family expanded from 2 to 24, extending from Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York to Illinois, Virginia, and Texas.
It was a great pleasure for Ruth to make family members: Sewing clothes, pajamas, aprons; sweaters, vests, caps, sleeveless knitting; designing personalized counted cross-stitch pieces to celebrate graduations and weddings; embroidery samplers; making custom quilted pot holders. No family household lacks these memories of Ruth’s talent and love. He also led a 4-hour group for school-age girls in the 1950s and taught them these craft skills, including the essential art of sock repair at the time.
Valuable visits by family and friends continued even after Ruth left the house next to Danby Pond and moved to Middlebury, Vermont, and later South Burlington. His more than 100 years of life testify to the power of love, compassion, acceptance and care that is the foundation of a well-lived life. At Ruth’s request, a family reunion is held to celebrate her life in a future.
Posted online: January 26, 2022
Published in Burlington Free Press