Thursday, November 06, 2008

Elegy for Ruth Ensign

Ruth Ensign died this morning after a long a valiant battle with all sorts of cancers and heart issues. Ruth was my mother-in-law pictured on the left above. She was a short and powerful woman, artist, liberal intellectual and conversationalist par excellence. She and Martha wrote weekly letters to each other for 35 years. She was forgiving to a fault, far more gracious with others' foibles that I am (except when it came to racist fundamentalists..watch out!). She was a champion of the underdog in every situation.
What touched me over the years was the way this mother-in-law welcomed me into her family and home. I was instantly accepted the moment Martha and I announced our engagement. I was not agreed with, but accepted. She was not sure about her daughter marrying a Yankee like me, and an evangelical (she was a Presbyterian Elder). But she did. Her memorial will be Saturday, November 15 in Richmond, VA. Peace to her memory.


At 8:12 AM , Blogger E Erickson said...

May God bless you and your family, and comfort you during this time - she's free at last!

At 7:01 AM , Blogger Anthony Milton said...

Betsy and I first met Ruth in the summer of 1971. We were spending the summer with our three young children with Betsy’s parents who lived in Richmond. I was spending three months as a visiting lecturer at MCV. We had seen an advertisement in the local paper about an exhibition of collographs in one of the art galleries in Richmond (I forget which one). So one Sunday afternoon we drove over from Bumpass, where we were spending the weekend with Betsy’s aunt Ruth. We were really taken with the pictures and bought two of them, “In Adam’s Field” and “Farmhouse Yard”. We chatted with Ruth, who I think was quite intrigued that the pictures were going back to London. Whenever we visited Richmond we took the opportunity of acquiring another ‘Ruth Ensign’. We always telephoned when we were in Richmond, and I would hardly open my mouth, before Ruth would recognize who was talking. We visited her both at Camp Hanover and in later years in Richmond. On one occasion, when I was making a flying visit to see Betsy’s parents, having given a lecture in Washington, I discovered that Ruth was teaching at a school outside of Richmond. I stopped on my way back to Washington to see her. I think Ruth’s pupils were quite amazed at the stranger from Scotland (we had moved to Aberdeen by then) who drove up in a Lincoln Continental (this being the only car the hire company had available, even though I had booked a small one), and bought one of their teacher’s paintings.
The last time Betsy and I saw Ruth was in July of last year (2008) when we spent an hour chatting with her and John, before coming away with yet another collograph. Our collection now stands at seventeen.
Little did we know this would be the last time we would see her. I suppose in the thirty seven years we knew Ruth, we probably only met about a dozen times, and on each occasion probably for no more than an hour or so. Yet she was always so welcoming, and somehow our conversations seem to continue from our previous meetings as if no time had passed.
Truly a remarkable woman and one we will always remember as a friend.

Anthony Milton, Cambridge, England
3rd January 2009.


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