Ruth Griszmer Pfaff

March 19, 1919April 4, 2019

Ruth Lucille Griszmer Pfaff was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 19, 1919. Her parents owned a music store so Ruth and her sister, Helen, were surrounded by music every day. She started playing violin at age six. At age 15 Ruth was soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Goossens. She attended Western Hills High School where she graduated in 1937.

Ruth won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1938. During her studies at Curtis, Ruth was loaned an original Petrus Guarnerius violin from the Institute Museum for practice and performance. She later received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Ruth played on WLW radio station and gave numerous concerts.

In 1942 she married her husband Ralph Pfaff and taught music at St. Bernard High School while her husband served with the U.S. Army of the South Pacific during WWII. She was the first female band director in that area. After the war Ruth and Ralph moved to King City (1946) to teach music and in1954 they moved to San Jose, CA with their two children, Carole and Jim.

Ruth played first violin in the San Jose Symphony from 1954 to 1995. Ten of those years she was the Assistant Concertmaster. She also performed with the Santa Clara Symphony, and at Carmel’s Bach Festival. She played with famous conductors and performers during her career, among them Fritz Reiner, Eugene Goossens, Eugene Ormandy, Henry Mancini, and Vince Guaraldi.

Ruth was a docent at Good Samaritan Hospital and a member of Catholic Daughters of America in San Jose. Her hobbies were traveling, golf, and sewing.

She is survived by her daughter, Carole Smith (Rick), of Oroville, CA and her son, Jim (Lisa), of Modesto, CA. Also surviving are grandchildren Sara Blake McDowell, Meghan Blake Snow, Kate and Carly Pfaff, Stephanie Smith-Salke, and Chelsea Smith, and great-grandchildren Ryan and Leah McDowell, Lila Snow, and Maya and Samantha Salke.

In March Ruth celebrated her 100th birthday with family at Pacifica Memory Care in Modesto. She was a wonderful mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She will be missed by her family.

Services will be held on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at 11 a.m., St. Christopher Church, 1576 Curtner Ave., San Jose.

Memorial gifts may be made to “Ruppertsberger Blaskapelle”, C/O R.W. Lee, 611 13th Street, Modesto CA 95354. These gifts will support the youth band in the town of Ruth’s German relatives.


No services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.

Ruth Griszmer Pfaff

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