Ruth Obermer passed away on February 8, 2019 at the age of 94 after a long life filled with helping others through nursing and volunteering, loving and helping animals, travel and filling her life with the beauty of American Indian art.
Ruth is survived by half-sisters Judy Hammond-Dean (Oxford, UK) and Annik Cullinane (Isle of Wight, UK), nephews Stephen Isaacs (London, UK), David Isaacs (Sydney, Australia), John Robson (London, UK), Bill Robson (London, UK) and niece Susie Murtagh (Isle of Skye, UK), their respective children, and many great and great-great nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her dear brother Jim, step-sisters Elisabeth (Timi) Robson and Susanna Isaacs-Elmhirst, and niece Harriet (Hattie) Rowlands.
Ruth's father, Edgar Obermer, a physician (GP), remarried Kate Foss in 1925. Kate had two daughters from a previous marriage, Timi and Susanna. In 1931, along with Ruth's beloved brother Jim, the four children began attending the progressive Dartington Hall School in the countryside of Devon. Founded in 1925 by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst who initiated the "Dartington experiment," setting up a host of farming, forestry and educational projects, the Dartington School was inspired by Leonard's long association with Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and his Shantiniketan, where Tagore was trying to introduce progressive education and rural reconstruction into a tribal community. The Elmhirsts set out on a similar goal for the depressed agricultural economy in rural England. There was great freedom, such as a School Council in which both students and teachers had a vote, progressive curriculum, and idyllic settings in which children could play, study and flourish. The experiment was formalized in 1932 with the creation of The Dartington Hall Trust.
The roll-call of outstanding people involved in the Dartington experiment includes Tagore, Jacqueline du Pré, Igor Stravinsky, Ravi Shankar, T E Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), Paul Robeson, George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, HG Wells, and Aldous Huxley amongst many others. Ruth had very fond memories of her time at Dartington Hall and in particular loved the visit of Ravi Shankar and his torch-bearing musicians to the Duelling Ground at Dartington.
Following her early schooling, Ruth began training to be a nurse. During the very last stages of World War II she was a nurse at Westminster Hospital in central London, and by the 1950s had completed her training and travelled to the USA, where she was a valued British martinet. Ruth enjoyed melding the rigor and efficiency of her training in English nursing with the advances in medical technology and amenities of private US hospitals, working in what was at the time a cutting-edge Coronary Care Unit at Cedars Sinai. Ruth retired from Cedars-Sinai at the age of 62. At that point she travelled and donated over 5000 hours of service as a volunteer at Cedars-Sinai.
Ruth enjoyed traveling to England to visit her extended family and welcomed them in California. Despite the miles, she pursued continued connection with stepsisters Susanna, a psychoanalyst who practised and lived for a time in nearby Beverly Hills, Timi, an accomplished artist, Judy and Annik. She maintained and cultivated relationships with her neice Hattie, nephews Steve and Dave, John and Bill, niece Susie and their respective children, many who came to know Ruth and admire her independence and adventurous spirit. Hattie wrote Ruth often and visited her in California, as did Steve. Over the years, Ruth visited family in England and with her sister Susanna made a memorable trip to her nephew Dave's wedding to his wife Carmel, in Canberra Australia, February 1979.
Ruth loved all animals, especially her companions -cats Toby, Rudi and Callie – Callie survives at the age of 21 and is living contentedly with a neighbor in the same building Ruth lived in over 40 years. Ruth donated to the ASPCA and many wildlife funds.
Ruth loved and collected Native American turquoise and art. She enjoyed wearing her many pieces of turquoise jewelry. She had an infinity and admiration for native American art, history and culture and respected their struggles.
She walked a good deal in her sixties following retirement and loved animals, often visiting with their humans and making new friends and acquaintances on her daily strolls. Fiercely independent, Ruth continued to keep the same apartment for over 40-years, drive herself into her late eighties, lived as she chose, was forever inquisitive, a naturalist, and was an avid reader of the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps as a result of her progressive childhood education, Ruth was a fighter, she stuck up for causes, was feisty and opinionated. Those who knew her did not always agree with her but always respected her opinion—and loved her dearly.
Her family plans to return Ruth's ashes to Dartington and there hold a celebration of her life. If you would like to make any contribution in Ruth’s honor, we suggest donations to organizations that benefit animals, such as the ASPCA or World Wildlife Fund.