Ruth S. Ham

Ruth Straitiff Ham

SHAPLEIGH - Ruth S. Ham, 81, known by one and all as "Town Mother" for the residents of Shapleigh, died on Feb. 5, 2013, at Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford.

Ruth was born on Dec. 14, 1931, in Pepperell, Mass., to William A. and Doris A. (Blood) Straitiff, Sr. She attended local schools and graduated from Pepperell High School.

Before she met and married her husband, Warren Ham, she wanted to become a nun to serve the poor. It was a high mark to reach, as Ruth had been a longtime Baptist! Soon, she was smitten with Warren, and they married on Oct. 14, 1950, and made their home in Maryland. They were blessed with five children, and Ruth was fortunate to become a stay-at-home mom. She encouraged her children to learn the virtues of being honest, hard work never hurt anyone, and it was better to give than receive.

In 1973, they moved to the Ham Farm in Shapleigh, which has been home for generations of the Ham family. It was a change from the suburban life of Maryland, but Ruth didn't hesitate with the challenges that living in the country would entail. Soon, Ruth began attending the First Baptist Church, and she served as the church's treasurer for over 30 years. She also taught Sunday School and was a Girl Scout leader.

Ruth was instrumental in starting the food pantry in the area and served over 40 years within town government in a variety of positions. She served as a selectman for 33 years and was getting ready to run again. She served on the planning board, was chairman on several boards, and was a certified state assessor with the Maine Municipal Association (MMA).

She was a member of Acton-Shapleigh Lions Club and president of the cemetery association.

For many years, Ruth wrote a weekly column for the Sanford News.

When you met Ruth, she was available to listen to your concerns and was always fair. She liked to do things the right way the first time around. She was honest, wanted the best for the town and could be seen at all hours of the day or night working or volunteering for the town she came to love. She was instrumental in moving the town forward and was so pleased when the town dedicated the recreation fields in her name.

Ruth enjoyed traveling to the Grand Canyon with the friends she had made through the MMA. She even talked about wanting to jump from an airplane! She loved new adventures, history, attending any of the local school programs, or sitting at the Town Common, where family and friends could gather in the beauty of the village. Her legacy will be one of serving her fellow citizens with truth, respect and good ol' Yankee values.

Ruth is survived by four children, Jean Lynch and her husband, Jim, of Maryland, Karen Ham, of South Portland, Patricia May, of Kennebunk, and Kevin Ham and his wife, Debra, of Alfred; one grandson, Ryan Mayo, of Kennebunk; her siblings, W. Arthur, of Ohio; Ralph, of Pepperell, Mass., Florence, of Leesville, La., Sara, of Jacksonville, Fla., Ida, of Riverside, Calif., Alfred, of Jaffrey, N.H., and Doris, of Stanton, Calif.

She was predeceased by her husband, Warren Ham, in 2003; by a son, Edward Ham, in 1980; and by three brothers, John, Paul, and Charles.

A funeral service was held on Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Alfred Parish Church in Alfred. A reception followed, next door in the Hobbs Room. The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bosse officiated. Friends visited with the family before the service.

To leave a message of condolence for the family, please visit

Ruth loved the Town of Shapleigh and in her memory, please consider a donation to the Parks & Recreation Department, P.O. Box 26, Shapleigh, Maine 04076, or to the Shapleigh Fire Department, P.O. Box 15, Shapleigh, Maine 04076, or to the Shapleigh Rescue Department, P.O. Box 51, Shapleigh, Maine 04076.

The Autumn Green Funeral Home is respectfully handling arrangements.

Published in Fosters from Feb. 14 to Feb. 17, 2013