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RUEL STEVENSON SMITH
"In my mail at the end February, I received a note from Linda, Steve (Smitty), and Andy Smith that Ruel died gently in the early hours of February 15,1999. I believe he was just short of his 67th birthday which occurs in April. The children state that they will be coming together from their homes in Toronto, Hong Kong, and Las Vegas for a private ceremony in Ruel's memory. Some of you may have received this tender message as well.
Ruel and I encountered one another on the playing floor of Miss Wheat's preschool near the Cotswold area of Edgemont at age 4, maybe even younger. Pam, Mimi, Ann Cannon, and perhaps Harry McIntyre were there as well. That was 63 years ago. I cannot ever not remember knowing Ruel.
I have a variety of very good memories which include the day we went forward in 1948 to receive the "one Most for Edgemont"; awards. Earlier Ruel had run for student council president and had lost, but he was recognized for his leadership in this way. A great baseball fan who loved to play the game as well, Ruel starred for us in high school. I can also visualize him on the basketball court in his blue Edgemont jacket zipping up the courtwith John Trimble and Moose Staley. Perry comes into view, too. I think he must have been scorekeeper in those carefree days. Ruel was a lefthander like me, and we often commiserated on our fate, so disadvantaged in the right-handed world! In my mind's eye, I can also see Ruel playing the trumpet (or coronet?) with his face bright red and his cheeks puffed to bursting [click here for a picture of Ruel playing trumpet in 1948 at Perry Davis' house in Scarsdale. Just click the 'Back' button to return here]
When we were about 12, we began going to early morning Lenten services and breakfast at St. James the Less. Brace Young and I would meet at a juncture on Ft. Hill Road, walk to Pam Pershing's on Old Army Rd. house where we'd also meet Ann Cannon; then we'd go through the woods to Blauvelt Place to pick up Ruel. I think that Jack Macrae (McRae?) may have still been with us then. We were happy kids with Ruel as the eternal entertainer, often regaling us with post-communion impersonations of our ministers. This was not necessarily a pious act that we undertook each Wednesday morning, but we felt special for being able to skip the first hour or so of school. Pam confesses to having had a big crush on Ruel in those days which was fanned by finding a photo of him in her Christmas stocking from Santa! When we went off to college, we never lost touch. There are a zillion memories of him in those days, but I love best the one of him trying to capture the attention of a Smith friend outside of her window in our dormitory after hours. It was dark, and Ruel had had too much beer at Rahar's. He fell into a window well and let out the biggest 'SHIT' to reverberate around the quadrangle in the history of the college! Windows flew open all over as several hundred Smithies watched this man struggle to get out of the window well with a stream of accompanying oaths! I think it was Bob Jeffrey, a Dartmouth roommate, who finally rescued him!
He was a devoted friend of Jim Miller's at Dartmouth and thought he was the luckiest guy on the face of the earth to meet and marry Jim's sister, Jane, also a Smithie but several years behind us. She became a wonderful and lasting friend to many of us and gave the world three very special children: Linda, now a recognized composer of music, married and living in Toronto; Steve, a successful business man living in Hong Kong after a lengthy stint in Hungary; and Andy, a fine cellist, now with an orchestra in Las Vegas. The musical talents of Jane, especially, but of Ruel, too, have come forward in this generation.
Of course, it was always Ruel's wry sense of humor that captivated us over the years. He called me everything one could think of --- from Poopdeck to Upchuck and lots in between, which during our most intense adolescent times was very funny. He could tell a joke like no one else and sing the bawdiest of songs. He was just a great friend to be with. Alas, we were all too naive to recognize the early signs of his alcoholism during the college years and of his near-impossible struggle to overcome it and find a vocation that was rewarding. This was hardest on Jane, who bore the brunt of his wantonness while trying to raise three small children. She has always had our love, support, and respect, even when she finally decided that enough was enough.
Ruel's struggle with the demon alcohol was finally rewarded after a long stint with AA. He found work again in his field of merchandising and was giving leadership within the AA movement when he was felled by his terrible stroke.
Over the last dozen or more years, Ruel, who was disabled by his stroke and eventually bedridden, never lost his sense of humor nor his will to live. His sons, especially, fought for him in the care center during the earliest days of his stroke rehabilitation.
When they discovered that Ruel could move one big toe and thus tap out a message in Morse code, it was this: 'Why are you bugging me?!" [Ruel recovered to the point where he could speak reasonably well by gulping air]
So here's to Ruel, great lifelong friend, and to his courageous family who loved him in spite of himself as did we all. May he be at the pearly gates to welcome me when my time comes!
(signed) Frankie Updike Simonds