Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ruth Olver, R.I.P.

Two years ago my parents' dear friend John Olver died. I only wrote the first of two posts I had planned to write on him. We had a visiting lecturer from Botswana at school on almost-last-minute notice and I never got to write more. But the first post is here and will tell you a bit about him. (There is a good link to a short bio.) John was a warm, witty, intelligent man who worked for UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, for most of his life. I think of him when I hear news of Gaza because he was one of the few people who managed to get anything done there. In his case, it was bringing fresh water to Gaza. He wrote a book about it, but I think it was a self-publish and never got out there into the wide world. I once saw a used copy on Amazon, though. It was called Roadblocks and Mindblocks: Partnering with The PLO and Israel.

John died in March of 2008, a month full of deaths and with Holy Week in it besides.

Today John's wife Ruth Olver died. Ruth and my mother met at Hunter College in uptown Manhattan when they were in their late teens. They used to study at the library together, taking turns napping. Later, when they were both married, the two couples became close friends and my mother became godmother to Ruth's second child, a daughter. I used to get hand-me-down clothes from Amy; they would arrive in a package at our house in Paris, all the way from wherever the Olvers were at the time. For a while they lived in Geneva.

We received news of Ruth's passing from Ruth and John's son this evening. (Interesting note: both he and I entered the Episcopal Church in our middle age.) Ruth had been very ill for several years. She had Parkinson's and other ailments, and she had recently turned 92 years old.

Ruth Olver was an early civil rights activist, attempting to integrate public facilities in Washington, D.C. in the early 1940s (as did my mother's late brother, Don Rothenberg). Her son wrote, "A brilliant woman of her generation, after her marriage to the late John Olver in 1944 she devoted herself to raising her children and supporting the UN career of our late father. However, she was always very active in organizing schools, supplies and other social support for children wherever he served, especially in Libya and later in the Palestinian Territories."

In her forties, back in the U.S., Ruth became a psychiatric social worker. In addition to an active clinical practice, she was a pioneer in campaigning against spousal and other domestic abuse in Westchester County. (For those of you who don't know, that's a suburban county north of New York City; part of it is fancy shmancy and it also has middle-class neighborhoods and towns and pockets of poverty; domestic abuse does not know class lines.) Ruth was a founder of the Women's Justice Council, which lobbies the police and courts for justice for victim-survivors of domestic abuse and and provides childcare and other support to them while they are pursuing their rights. (I'm paraphrasing Richard's letter here.)

Ruth was a founder of My Sister's Place, a Westchester County shelter for victims of abuse. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to that shelter.

Please remember Ruth Olver and her children and grandchildren in your prayers. Remember also John, who preceded her in death two years ago and who like her worked for the good of humanity. Remember also my parents, who have yet again lost a dear friend of their generation.


Fran said...

Oh my God - I was reading along, feeling sad and then I began to weep.

I know someone whose life was saved at My Sister's Place. The world is so very small and so very remarkable, isn't it?

Rest in peace Ruth! And prayers for all who loved her.

Paul said...

May she rest in peace and rise in glory. May all who love her, especially her children and MoAoH, find comfort.

lindy said...

Jane, your writing is so clear and interesting that I always feel as if I know the people you're writing about.

May the memory of Ruth and John be for a blessing to those who loved them, and to those of us who might learn from them as well.

Thank you for this window into a world I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

June Butler said...

May Ruth rest in peace and rise in glory. May God give comfort, consolation, and peace to all who love Ruth.