Linda Ruth Plaut
Linda Ruth Plaut, age 78, died peacefully in her sleep at her Newton home on Sunday surrounded by friends and family. From 1974 until her very last day, Linda was devoted to promoting cultural and civic life in the City of Newton. She started hundreds of Newton’s cultural events, festivals, courses, children’s classes, musical programs, performances and parades. She kept them thriving over the past 45 years and had no plans to retire. Linda would see multiple generations of children enjoy the same programming she had developed years earlier for their parents. She enriched life for hundreds of thousands of people. Linda believed in making Newton a place where everyone could contribute. When people came to City Hall with an idea for cultural or community programming, Linda routinely would support their ideas and harness their enthusiasm. Linda built extensive networks of people and programming by empowering others and encouraging them to bring their vision to the community. From this inclusive approach she helped found and run Newton’s Harvest Fair, SpringFest, the Festival of the Arts in Newton, the Newton Youth Players theatre program, Time for Partners classes, Fourth of July festivities, NewtonSERVES, several beautification campaigns, the Newton Spelling Bee, Holiday Window Painting, holiday plant sales, the Public Piano project, dance recitals, cultural fairs and festivals honoring Indian, Russian and Chinese cultures, Newton’s Heartbreak Hill road race and countless others. She started a folk concert series and a bluegrass festival, she sponsored classical music concerts and opera performances, and she invited internationally known lecturers, artists and musicians to come to Newton. She started sister city relationships with towns in Ireland, Italy, Israel and Japan and brought delegations of Newtonians to visit those places.
Linda worked tirelessly to make Newton a better place. She was said to have known more people in Newton than anyone other than the sitting mayor. “Linda Plaut Day” in Newton was celebrated in both 1988 and 2017. She was always grateful to Mayor Theodore Mann, her first mentor and champion in Newton civic life, and subsequently had the privilege of working for the City under the stewardship of Mayors Thomas Concannon, David Cohen, Setti Warren and, most recently, the Honorable Ruthanne Fuller. In 1988 she was appointed the Director of the Newton Tricentennial Celebration and since that time she served as the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs, the Director of the Newton Cultural Council and the Director of the Newton Pride Committee. Linda also served as an Associate Commissioner for the Metropolitan District Commission in Boston.
Far from being handed these opportunities, Linda started her career in Newton with no extended family within 200 miles, no contacts, no connections, and no experience in building cultural or civic communities. She built her legacy though vision, dedication, relentless effort, and the ability to listen to others to see how she could help them succeed in making Newton better themselves. She grew up playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn with her three brothers, attended Brooklyn College, and then studied at the University of Wisconsin and at the East West Center in Hawaii where she earned her Master’s Degree. She taught history at White Plains High School in New York. In 1965 she married Dr. Andrew Plaut and they spent two years living in Bangkok, Thailand where Andrew did medical research for the U.S. Army and where their daughter Julie was born. In Bangkok, Linda taught English as a second language. After living in Buffalo where their son Jonathan was born the family moved to Newton in 1973. Linda, knowing nobody in the City and with two small children, began to volunteer for the City’s Bicentennial parade. Linda’s desire to bring people into the civic fold grew directly out of her own need to create a community for herself. She had full tables at her house for Thanksgiving meals, Passover Seders and holiday parties, and even threw a Patriots Super Bowl party last month. She was an extremely warm person who would bring those without close families into the hearth she created. She hosted exchange students from Japan, Egypt, Jordan, England, Korea, Spain, Guatemala, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and elsewhere. She let performers from out of town stay in her house while they performed in Newton. She loved classical music, the Berkshires, live theatre, books on history and Democratic politics, cooking, blue and white pottery, and watching Rachel Maddow’s nightly incredulity.
She was a devoted and beloved mother, grandmother and sister. Many others viewed Linda as family they chose for themselves. She is survived by her daughter Julie Plaut Mahoney, son Jonathan David Plaut, son-in-law Tim Mahoney, grandchildren Jacob and Sarah, and her three devoted brothers Ed, Mike and Richard Fields and their loving spouses and children. Her deepest wish was that others live their lives to make the world a more inclusive place. Services at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 10:00am. Burial at Newton Cemetery, Newton. Shiva will be at Linda's home following the burial until 3:00pm and 6:30-8:30pm and continuing on Thursday 1-3:00pm and 6:30-8:30pm and Friday 1-3:00pm. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in memory of Linda to the Anti-Defamation League, 40 Court Street, Suite #12, Boston, MA 02108 or the John M. Barry Boys & Girls Club of Newton, 675 Watertown Street, Newton, MA 02460.
- Funeral Service Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Linda Ruth Plaut
March 7, 2019
March 6, 2019
To Linda’s wonderful family:
It was a shock for us to learn of Linda’s passing, especially because the news reached us when we were at a considerable distance from Newton, in Mexico, unable attend the ceremonies or participate in the Shiva. We wondered how it could be that Linda, so vivacious and full of energy, was gone. For so many years Linda graced Newton with her vibrant presence and enlivened the cultural scene of our city. With her boundless creativity it seemed like she could go on indefinitely. Only a short while ago, it seems, we saw her walking briskly along Lincoln Street in the company of a friend but taking the time to wave a friendly hello in our direction. On other occasions over the years Linda, no matter how busy she was in her public position, always found time to stop to chat and catch up with us, asking how we were doing in retirement and where our kids were living. There are many precious memories we’d like to share with you, and we hope for an opportunity to convey our condolences and talk about them in person. Love, Lori and Jonathan Roses
February 22, 2019
I met Linda when I first moved to Newton in 1990 with my 2 young daughters. She got them all excited about the 4th of July decorated doll carriage parade. I then worked on a children's festival and taught art at Time for Partners. She was always open to my ideas and encouraged me to pursue them. She was always my role model from the way she dressed to the way she loved art and music. I remember her and her partner Judy when they were sitting back to back in a small office on Robin Hood Road. It was such a luxury when the office moved to the school on Nevada Street. We worked on many festivals together there. I was happy to be her "paparazzi" with my still or video camera whenever possible. Lately, I've been compiling her introductions to concerts that I have, so for now, she still seems alive and vibrant as ever. Even last summer when I drove her around to all the Festival events, she was appreciative, generous, and supportive. She never complained about her condition. She did not want to miss anything going on in Newton or even concerts and plays outside our city. Her family was always thankful for my help and made me feel welcome. This Spring will feel a bit strange without driving to her house and being with her at all the events but she will always be a favorite memory of mine.
February 22, 2019
Linda was an amazing, insightful, supportive and kind woman. One evening, her daughter Julie discovered that I was an art teacher after overhearing our sons conversation after their band practice. Knowing that her mother Linda needed someone ASAP for the Time for Partners program, Julie called me and asked if I'd like a phone introduction to learn more about the position. Within the hour I had my first phone conversation with Linda and I was instantly impressed by her confident communication style, her warmth, her enthusiasm, and spirited charm. She spoke with such devotion and care for the TFP program and I was sold...and hired on the spot! Over the years, my admiration and respect for Linda continued to grow. Her leadership and commitment to the Newton community and their families has been inspirational. Working together with her assistant Paula, I am honored to continue teaching this summer in the children's Theatre and Art Program spearheaded and developed by Linda many years ago.
My love, sympathy and support goes out to Linda's family, friends, colleagues and her countless fans.
February 21, 2019
As a member of the Newton Auxiliary Police for the past 25 years, I can recall the dozens of city events that Linda coordinated with our organization. She was very straight-forward and no-nonsense and she always appreciated our efforts to assist. We always looked forward to seeing her actively participate in the many arts and cultural affairs events. Her loss is huge but her presence will always be remembered.
Deputy Chief - Newton Auxiliary Police
February 20, 2019
A beautifully written tribute. I love this photograph of Linda. Over 4 years ago, while I was in the midst of a job search, I was so fortunate to be able to work as a volunteer for and with Linda and Jeannie. I spent several months making many trips to City Hall, sometimes daily, to Linda and Jeannie's office to work on the first-ever Newton Festival of the Arts project. I will always remember that the day after I met with Linda to ask about the arts in Newton and any fit I might find to place myself into during my job search, Linda called me back within 24 hours to invite me to attend the Festival of the Arts committee meetings. I was off and running. It was a real boost to my self-esteem at that time, and I was so grateful to Linda for her kindness and enthusiasm. I've heard this same scenario be spoken and written about in several stories since! I can't express how "at home" I felt working in Linda's office and all around City Hall, and Newton. I took on every task Linda asked me to do, or that I thought up and she would then approve. I had a Blast! Linda was always generous. She bought me lunches from the City Hall cafeteria, she personally invited me to fancy and delicious fundraiser dinners, concerts and events throughout the Festival of the Arts month. Linda made me feel special. For many months and years afterwards I started my next (and current) job, I would pop in to say "Hello" and I was always greeted with a smile and sometimes a hug. I am deeply grateful to have had this meaningful and extremely creative life experience, and I will always carry it with me. I was humbled to attend the profoundly beautiful funeral service and burial today. Blessings to Linda's family and friends. I will miss her, and I will always remember her. Importantly I will, and do, carry Linda's spirit with me as I pursue my own artistic and educational work, and I know that I will again be back in her office, some day, to help and to carry on her vibrant legacy in Newton.
February 20, 2019
So sorry to hear of the loss of Linda - she was an amazing woman and I am honored to have worked with her at city hall. One my first ‘lay of the land’ orientations was at Linda’s home sharing a cup of tea and getting to know the amazing work she was involved with. Linda’s connections were inspiring as was her attention to detail for every event. Linda will be sadly missed as her energy and commitment to her job was her passion, and hard to replicate. The grace and composure she showed through her illness was inspiring and we will miss her friendly smile and magnetic charisma. Prayers for her family - xx Kathryn Ellis
February 19, 2019
On behalf of Historic Newton, I want to express our deep appreciation for this champion of arts and culture. She will be missed, not just as a colleague, but also as a force for bringing joy and beauty to this city.
February 19, 2019
My late parents, Alan and Thelma Mann Barkin, were great fans of Linda and appreciators of all that she did for the City. When my own family lived in Newton for a year in 1980-81, we took advantage of the many programs that Linda had spearheaded through Arts in the Parks. We still talk about it. Linda helped transform Newton into the city that it is today.
February 18, 2019
I remember meeting Linda years ago when my daughter was involved in elementary plays at the Carr school. What a special woman. The City of Newton has really lost a jewel. Our condolences to Linda’s family. It’s a very sad time. Fondly Laurie Friedell and family