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Ruth Hamilton Bridgens was born Aug 25, 1922, in Corder, Missouri and died Feb. 12, 2013 at her home in Williamsburg, Mass. Daughter of Pearl Wells Hamilton and E. Hubbard Hamilton, Ruth grew up in rural Missouri during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. She graduated from Salisbury High School, Salisbury Missouri in 1940 and from the University of Missouri, Columbia School of Nursing in 1946.
In 1947 Ruth married James G. Bridgens, to whom she was married for eighteen strife-filled years. Much of that time was spent protecting their three children, Steve, Randy and Paige, and preparing for divorce, which was difficult for a woman to make happen in those days, but which finally became a reality in 1965.
Early on, Ruth felt a calling to work in the field of nursing. She worked as a psychiatric nurse throughout most of her adult life. As a young nurse she worked at New York Hospital in White Plains and then at General Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Throughout the sixties, seventies and into the eighties she continued to work in Kansas City. At Western Missouri Mental Health Center Ruth worked with children on an inpatient psychiatric ward. She worked at HEED School with emotionally disturbed children. For some time she worked on the psychiatric unit at Menorah Medical Center. In the seventies, with Mary Jean Sitter, Ruth established Options, a private family and individual counseling practice in Independence, Missouri.
In 1985 Ruth accepted a position as Director of Nurses at Pine Ridge Hospital in Lander, Wyoming, where she worked for a year. In 1986 she relocated to western Massachusetts to live near her daughter. Here she worked on the psychiatric units at both Cooley-Dickinson Hospital in Northampton and Holyoke Hospital in Holyoke. She also worked at outpatient mental health centers in Greenfield and Springfield. Throughout her career, Ruth held the patients and clients she worked with in high esteem and worked with them to achieve their goals. She had a special fondness for adolecents.
An ardent atheist, Ruth relished the company she found at the Unitarian Church in Kansas City and was an active member for several decades.
For a couple of years she convened an often rollicking youth group at Fellowship House, an organization in Kansas City that promoted cross-racial connections during a time of unprecedented racial strife in the city. Ruth was an active member of the League of Women Voters. She read voraciously. Throughout her life Ruth loved to write and in various periods did so prodigiously. Throughout the sixties Ruth attended courses at UMKC, especially those offered by Carolyn Benton Cockefair. In the seventies she received a Masters in Liberal Arts from Baker University. In later years she participated in Learning in Retirement memoir writing classes and Amherst Writers and Artists workshops. Ruth gardened, bicycled, discussed politics and entertained friends wherever she was living. She had a marvelous sense of humor and was a joy to be around. She sought out the natural world. That she waded in a chest-deep swamp with her young children will never be forgotten by them.
In 1997 Ruth became involved with a partner, Bill Gold.
Her last few years were spent at her home in Williamsburg, Massachusetts cared for by her daughter and several caregivers. Ruth is survived by sons Steven Hamilton Bridgens of Kansas City, Kansas and Randolph Getty Bridgens of Santa Fe, New Mexico and daughter Barbara Paige Bridgens of Northampton, Massachusetts; daughter-in-law Marcy Smalley of Kansas City and grandson Arthur Randolph Bridgens of Wichita, Kansas.
Donations in Ruth's name may be made to Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways in memory of her passion for bicycling, gardening and living fully.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Feb. 25, 2013