Ruth Downs
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Downs, Ruth Shaheen
The beloved wife of broadcaster, Hugh Downs, passed away on Tuesday March 28, 2017 at the age of 95, at their home in Scottsdale, AZ. Her husband was by her side as she peacefully embarked on the "next great adventure," as she referred to Death. Ruth Downs was born in Illinois in the autumn of 1921 to Mike and Sadie Shaheen, who taught their only daughter she could do anything her three brothers could do if she was willing to work for it; and she proved them right throughout her remarkable life. During WWII, Ruth was decorated by Naval Intelligence for her work on an undercover assignment. When she graduated from college, she moved to Chicago and became a radio actress, as well as a director and producer. One of her employees was a young announcer by the name of Hugh Downs. Ruth and Hugh fell in love, married and had two children. Once married, Ruth gave up working outside the home until after the children were raised and grown. Hugh credits her for much of his success, and considered her his equal partner in Life. They were together for 75 years at the time of her passing. Throughout her extraordinary life, Ruth made friends all over the world, whether she was producing a film documentary, or accompanying her husband on business. In the early 1970's Ruth opened the celebrated "Ruth Downs, Ltd" needlework shop in Carefree, AZ. She hired many local artists and trained all her employees in how to create high-end needlepoint canvases. Ruth was an artist in her soul, and her canvasses were collected and coveted by needleworkers all over the world. She had a passionate love for the world, and for babies and children in particular, her own or other people's. She always went out of her way to spend time with her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and to annually bring together her own descendants and those of her beloved brothers John, Raymond, and Richard Shaheen. When Ruth and Hugh moved to Arizona in the late 1960's, she lent her creative gifts to establishing beautiful, welcoming homes whether they lived in Carefree or Paradise Valley. She made enduring and deep friendships here in the Valley, that have lasted to this day. Family meant everything to her, and she was religious about hosting and celebrating a family reunion for her children, their children, all their cousins, and all their cousins' children every year at Thanksgiving. This tradition was inviolable, and the entire family will continue to "gather the clan" with great love and enjoyment every year in her honor. Ruth was imbued with a mischievous sense of humor, and a depth of wisdom about human nature, both of which she used in service to the people around her. Ruth will be remembered for her courage, strength, and grace which were unwavering and inspiring to everyone; and she will forever be missed by her family and her many friends. She is survived by her devoted husband Hugh, her children Deirdre and H.R., her granddaughter Leah, her grandson Cameron Black, her granddaughter-in-law Nikki Black, and her great-grandchildren Alexander and Julia; as well as her beloved nephews, Michael, Bradford, Jeffrey, and Robert and their beautiful wives, and their children whom Ruth adored. A private memorial service is planned. The family suggests that anyone who cares to honor Ruth's memory may make a donation to The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU. A check can be made out and mailed to: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, ASU Foundation, P.O. Box 2260, Tempe, AZ 85280-2260. Or you can donate online at: https://humancommunication.clas.asu.edu/about/give-human-communication. Tell them Ruth sent you. She'd like that.



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Published in The Arizona Republic on Apr. 2, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
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11 entries
July 2, 2020
She must have been a wonderful person to know!!! As Hugh passed away today, I had to look up her picture. We have watched him for years and years. He was always a wonderful person, always polite, always the perfect gentleman. We will miss you both.
Centennia Carrothers
Acquaintance
March 23, 2020
The epitome of a humble and loving marriage. Rest in peace Mrs. Downs. I used to watch20/20 and Concentration as a younger man.
Rabbi Lewis Davis
December 9, 2017
Wonderful lady!
Arlene DaCol
September 9, 2017
I want to express my sincere condolences. I'm a fan of Hugh's and am very sorry for the Downs' family's loss.
William Beck
August 11, 2017
Ruth was such a wonderful, and sweet woman. We'll miss her
Renee Young
April 11, 2017
What a wonderful lady who lived a life of grace, class, wisdom, and dignity. Thank you Ruth for always exemplifying the very best. You will be missed by all who knew you.
Kim Spangler
April 8, 2017
Last full family photo
My first memory is when I was in high school. Ruth and Hugh stopped in Erie to visit family. They came to our house. Hugh almost bumped his head on our low ceiling. My twin James met DiDi and H.R. when we were roofing the barn with tin.
I last saw Ruth and Hugh in Phoenix. We had supper together along with a couple from Hoople, Il. We talked about flying, railroads, farming, broadcasting.
James and I had a metal elephant bank from Hugh and Ruth. I had it until I moved to Texas in 1982
Mom and dad had a picture from Hugh prominently displayed in the hardware store.
dad had told me a story of him trying to teach Ruth how to drive.
Gary Farral
April 4, 2017
North Pole Expedition
Ruth was a trooper! She had an indefatigable sense of adventure and a terrific life attitude. We were fortunate to have been able to spend a few weeks with Ruth and Hugh on a filming expedition to the North Pole and Ruth proved to be resourceful, resilient and an integral part of the production.

Ruth and Hugh define marriage and set a fantastic example of what a successful marriage looks like.

Her insights will live on in those of us lucky enough to share her air.
Jim & Kelly Watt
April 3, 2017
Ruth is an inspiration to me and the love and respect I have for her will never wane.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to have her in my life. She told me I was losing a good friend, but she will live forever in my heart.
My condolences to her family during this time.
Theresa Healy
April 2, 2017
My deepest sympathy to the family. Our loving Creator invites us to approach Him in prayer, to pour out our hearts to Him. May He grant you peace strength and comfort during this time of sadness. Psalms 116:15
April 2, 2017
Read the obit. What an extraordinairy woman. Wonderful Legacy she has left behind.
Beverly Denn
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