Ruth B. Moynihan
1933 - 2018
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Ruth MacKenzie Barnes Moynihan, grandmother of 19, mother of 7, wife of Bill, passed away at her home in Storrs CT, surrounded by her family at sunset on October 1, 2018, after a valiant struggle with ALS. Ruth was born on August 19, 1933, in Wallingford CT to Helen MacKenzie and Russell Barnes. From an early age she was an academic superstar. As valedictorian at the MacDuffie School, she won a full scholarship to Smith College. In her freshman year at Smith she beat out her friend Sylvia Plath to win the College's annual writing prize. Always a passionate romantic, in her sophomore year she fell in love with, and married, the brilliant and handsome Marine, William Trumbull Moynihan. As a result, however, she was forced to give up her scholarship and leave Smith. While heartbroken by her ejection from school, she immediately redirected her energy to other pursuits. She supported Bill's work to get his Ph.D. in English, wrote articles for a variety of journals, and gave birth to 6 children by the time she was 31. Never one to allow the constraints of everyday life to limit her, she felt she could do more to make the world a better place. She researched, and then sought out, a child in great need of a home, and adopted him in 1967 to complete the family. After the older children were able to fend for themselves a little, Ruth went back to college herself. She completed undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut in 1973 and then earned a Danforth Fellowship to Yale University, where she completed a Ph.D. in American History in 1979. She was fascinated by the women, mostly unknown, in American history, from her own ancestors in New England to the women who were essential in settling the West. Her dissertation, later published as the book Rebel for Rights: Abigail Scott Duniway, profiled the suffragist of the Gilded Age who wrote the amendment to Oregon's constitution to give women the right to vote. She was part of the faculty of the University of Connecticut for 20 years, while also accepting visiting positions at Portland State University, Lewis & Clark College, St. Joseph College, Yale University, and the University of Texas at Dallas. She also served as the official historian for the State of Connecticut for a number of years. An avid reader and writer her whole life, she was also a passionate supporter of many causes, including the rights of poor and oppressed peoples everywhere. She worked for many years with Artesanos Unidos, a marketing cooperative of Mexican, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan artisans. She was easily recognizable around Storrs, often wearing a colorful Artesanos Unidos shirt and carrying an embroidered bag. She was also a founding member of Friends of Ecole Agape, which sponsors the Agape school for girls in Haiti. A woman of strong faith, she always reached out to help others in acts of kindness and charity. She was a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish for 55 years, and supported numerous causes. She was also a lover of birds, trees and all of nature, including the many family dogs who followed her around looking for treats. As a mother of 7 and grandmother to 19, her enduring passion was for her family. She is survived by and will be deeply missed by her husband of 65 years, William Trumbull Moynihan, her children, Robert Moynihan of Annapolis MD, Elaine Moynihan Lisle of Bryn Mawr PA, Edward Moynihan of Plainfield NH, Neil Moynihan of Storrs CT, Susan Moynihan of Somerville MA, Richard Moynihan of Keene NH, and Benjamin Moynihan of Arlington MA. Also her grandchildren: Christopher and Luke Hart-Moynihan; Heather, Peter, and Matthew Lisle; Alison, Liam, and Galen Moynihan; Kate, Elizabeth, William, and Kevin Moynihan; Abigail and Siobhan Murray; Aren and Gabriel Moynihan; and Jaam, Toby, and Hien Moynihan. She is also survived by her sister, Eunice Turpaud of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The family is especially grateful to the caregivers who made her final weeks peaceful: Cyndi, Kim, Jen, Nadine, Olga, Beth, Jocelyn, and Lexi. Ruth's family will receive relatives and friends on Friday, October 5, 2018 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at Potter Funeral Home, 456 Jackson St, Willimantic. Her Funeral Mass, will be celebrated on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 10:00am, at St. Thomas Aquinas, 46 N Eagleville Rd, Storrs, meeting directly at church. Burial to follow at Storrs Cemetery, Storrs. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ruth's name to the Friends of Ecole Agape, P.O. Box 303, Ashford, CT 06278. Make checks payable to Friends of Ecole Agape. "May your hands remain open, caressing, never clinched, save to pound the doors of all who barter justice to the highest bidder."- Ken Sehested For an online memorial guestbook please visit

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Published in Hartford Courant on Oct. 3, 2018.
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October 4, 2018
Ruth was a shining light at St. Thomas
She brightened many days for me. My heartfelt condolences to Bill and family.
Mary Ann Lally
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