Ruth Mugridge Snodgrass
With profound sadness we announce the passing of Lillian Ruth Mugridge Snodgrass, 92. She left us July 30, 2020, at Park Village Health Care Center in Dover, Ohio. Ruth was born July 28, 1928, in Hollsopple, Pennsylvania, to Mary (Reese) and James Thomas Mugridge. The hardships Ruth's family endured during the Great Depression and World War II instilled in her the importance of perseverance, generosity, magnanimity, ingenuity, and optimism. These values were the foundation of her life, influencing her family and all who knew her. Ruth is survived by her daughter, Mary (Matthew) Buckley, of Montclair, New Jersey; nieces: Marcy Zeppernick of Deerfield, Ohio, Cheryl Fanning of Tempe, Arizona, Sharon (Mark) Johnson of Goose Creek, South Carolina, Nancy Mugridge of Leona Valley, California, Denise Spencer of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rebecca (Mike) Mugridge McIntosh of Albany, New York, Shonsa Hanke of Fort Pierce, Florida; nephews: Robert (Kathy) Greig of Rapid City, South Dakota, James Mugridge of Tempe, Arizona, Paul (Claire) Mugridge of Pearland, Texas; and many great-nieces, great-nephews, and friends. An aunt long before she became a mother, Ruth and her sister, Gwen, were convinced at an early age that nieces and nephews were the Best. Things. Ever. She delighted in her role as Aunt Ruth and was drawn to children of all ages throughout her life. Ruth was the last of her generation. She was preceded in death by her parents; her siblings and their spouses: Elizabeth (James) Greig, John (Esther) Mugridge, Robert (Olga) Mugridge, Jeanne (Robert) McFarland, and Gwen Mugridge; infant niece, Constance Mugridge; nephews, James Greig and David Mugridge; and great-great-nephew, Andrew Negro.
Truly a life-long learner, Ruth was a 1946 graduate of Somerset (PA) High School and a 1951 graduate of Otterbein College (now University) in Westerville, Ohio. She received her Master's of Education degree from Kent State University in 1969. Ruth had many passions and talents in life. Presciently, a favorite professor of Ruth's described her approach to life as that of someone who jumps on her horse and rides off in all directions. Teaching, formally and informally, was Ruth's calling. For 34 years she taught high school English, speech, French, and dramatics in Ohio's public schools, including at Strasburg, Beach City, Navarre, and, for 24 years, Tuscarawas Valley in Zoarville, from which she retired in 1985. She coached numerous competitive speech students and directed contest plays, producing many state forensics and dramatic qualifiers. Ruth directed over 100 high school plays, often musicals she wrote and scored herself. Ruth inspired countless students to learn a language, conquer their fears of public speaking, communicate effectively, discover reading, and love literature, and many became teachers themselves. Ruth was wonderfully creative. One of her lifelong loves was writing. She began writing poetry in elementary school; by 5th grade she had written a short play. During high school, several of her poems were published nationally. No wonder Ruth's high school yearbook photo is captioned "I could write a book." At Otterbein she was involved in many aspects of Quiz & Quill, the college's literary society. She continued to write throughout her teaching career, mostly songs, plays, and musicals, but it wasn't until long after she'd retired that she published a full-length book, a memoir, Dark Brown Is the River, in 2004. Two years later she published a sequel, On Goes The River: The Somerset Years. In 2008 and 2010, Ruth published two whimsical children's picture books, developed from songs she'd previously written, The Magical Merry-Go-Round and The Teddy Bear Contest, with illustrations of the Tuscora Park carousel and the Tuscarawas County fairgrounds by professional artist and dear friend Cathie Fithian. A founding member of the Tuscarawas County Writers' Guild in 2003, Ruth enthusiastically mentored younger writers, edited manuscripts, and gave presentations until her health conditions made it impossible. She inspired many local writers who looked to her for her technical knowledge and expert guidance. She was positively evangelical in promoting the importance of people having their family stories saved for posterity and would want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to record his or her personal history. Ruth had been active in her church, Strasburg United Methodist, since she moved to the area after college. Ruth's faith was an important part of her life. She sang in the choir, was a summer counselor at Camp Wanake, chaired countless Mother and Daughter Banquet committees, led the congregation's United Methodist Women group, coordinated volunteers to provide meals for the homeless shelter, and, for the congregation's 200th anniversary celebration, wrote a hymn and created a coloring book, for which she was named the Historian of the Year in 2011 for the UMC's East Ohio Conference. She was still teaching her adult Sunday school class until last year. A pastor friend once commended Ruth for embodying the concept of church not just as a noun, a place, but as a verb, an action-living her faith by doing good works in her community. There is no doubt Ruth would have approved the grammar reference above. Ruth loved all kinds of music, traveling in North America and Europe, learning and teaching languages, exploring all cultures, advocating for social justice, every craft she could get her hands on, carbohydrates, and her "grandcats." As a young adult she loved water skiing. Even in her later years she was surprisingly good at table tennis. Ruth was perpetually curious. And busy. But she always found time for a little nap. In the late 1950s during summers off from teaching, Ruth performed locally as a folksinger with her baritone ukulele. She had always had a strong voice, but she said learning to play the ukulele allowed her to transpose music to fit her low range and gave her confidence to really sing out. This confidence led her to begin writing music, and she never stopped. With that low voice, Ruth was a perfect fit for singing the bass part in the Valley Voices, the local women's barbershop chorus, which she joined in 1983, spreading the unique sound of 4-part a cappella harmony to audiences of all ages. She wrote and directed over 10 of the chorus's shows and especially enjoyed performing her spoken solo in "God Bless America." Fluent in French, Ruth in the summer of 1961 traveled to Europe with an Otterbein College alumni group for home stays and language practice and in early August was in Germany, traveling between East and West Berlin, just days before the wall went up, not fully aware until later of the history she had witnessed first-hand. She embraced the thrill of exploring, connecting, and learning through travel. Ruth's sharing of her multicultural experiences back home inspired many students, adults, and family members to join her on educational European tours, which she led from 1972-1989. In the early 1990s Ruth was part of a group that founded Hispanic Ministries of Tuscarawas County, an accomplishment of which she was particularly proud. She taught English classes from 1995-2003 and also taught four years in HMTC's bilingual Vacation Bible School. She helped many recent arrivals to the area find their way in the community and likewise helped the community learn about and embrace its new residents. She developed many beautiful friendships within this organization. In retirement, Ruth was even busier than she'd been while teaching. She loved that she had more time to pursue her many artistic interests, which included calligraphy, drawing, scrapbooking, jewelry making, and especially rubber stamping, which she unleashed on every flat surface in her house.
Ruth will be missed. She will be remembered for her quick wit, soft heart, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, creative spirit, occasional silliness, and constant loyalty and also as a 2013 inductee to the Ohio Senior Citizens' Hall of Fame. To honor Ruth, the family suggests those who remember her fondly perform an unsolicited act of kindness in her name. Memorial contributions may also be made to the Strasburg United Methodist Church, 206 2nd St. N.W., Strasburg, Ohio 44680, Immigrant Worker Project, P.O. Box 57, Wooster, Ohio 44691 or the Tuscarawas County Humane Society, 1432 Tall Timber Rd. N.E., New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663. A memorial celebration of her life will be held at a later date, when it is safe to gather. She will be laid to rest at Grandview Cemetery in Strasburg with her sister, Gwen.
Published in The Times Reporter on Aug. 6, 2020.