Ruth C. Matthews

MARQUETTE, MI. – Our wonderful mother departed from us on October 7, 2013. She was born Ruth Ellen Cole on May 6, 1924 in Masury, OH. At an early age she moved to Bridgeport, CT, where she grew up as the middle child in a large, loving family during the challenging times of the Great Depression. Ruth experienced a life-changing event when, by chance, she tuned into a radio channel playing the first work of classical music she ever heard. She was electrified by the overwhelming emotions it inspired, and from that time on, she knew that classical music was to be the direction of her future life. At age 11 she began taking piano lessons. She graduated with honors from high school and won scholarship money to attend the University of Connecticut in 1941. She continued earning her way through college and graduated Magna Cum Laude from U. Conn. With another scholarship, she began attending graduate school in 1946 at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Near the end of that school year, she was briefly hospitalized at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital, where as a patient she met Dr. Norman Matthews who was interning there. Soon after her hospital discharge they began dating, and they were married in Bridgeport in 1947. In 1949 she finished her Master of Arts in music theory from Eastman.

Ruth and Norman lived in Seattle and Ann Arbor before settling in Marquette in 1951, after her major new responsibilities as a mother had begun. Ruth’s musical networking with the Marquette community over the next decades intertwined with her family life and raising five children. Gift opening always took place on early Christmas afternoon after Ruth returned home from playing the organ for at least two morning church services! She played the organ at the First Methodist Church from 1953 to 1970 and then at the Messiah Lutheran Church from 1970 to 1995. She taught music theory and individual piano and organ lessons at Northern Michigan University from 1955 to 1981. She performed in many recitals, weddings, and Christmas concerts over the years.

With Ruth’s love of music and the arts, and Norman’s love of science, their children were raised in a stimulating liberal arts atmosphere. Ruth had a feminine and intelligent approach to motherhood, and she loved and respected all of her children as individuals.

Ruth was greatly influenced by her travel experiences abroad over the years. She first traveled to Europe in 1969 with the NMU Arts Chorale.

Ruth did further study on the doctoral level in the organ department of the University of Michigan, and she participated in seven organ tours in Great Britain, Europe and Scandinavia. She had the opportunity to play hundreds of historic and great organs in France (including twice in the Notre Dame Cathedral), England, East and West Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. She and her husband traveled widely, visiting all of Europe, as well as the Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Soviet Union, Morocco, and New Zealand. After retiring they spent many winters in Florida and Maui, HI, and eventually celebrated their 50th anniversary. Ruth was loyal to her many friends, and continued to enjoy reading, learning, and expanding her mental horizons throughout her long and rich life.

Ruth loved choral music and was the accompanist for the Marquette Choral Society for many years. In 1991 she received one of the first awards for contributions to choral music in the U. P. given by the Choral Society. Ruth was a member of Delta Zeta sorority, Gamma Chi Epsilon scholastic fraternity, Sigma Alpha Iota music sorority, the BY chapter of PEO, and the board of the former Marquette Community Concert Association; and as a member of the Marquette General Hospital Auxiliary, she worked in the gift shop as a volunteer for many years.

Ruth is survived by her children, Claire (Alan) Reitter of Columbus, OH, Dr. Martin (Margo) Matthews of Marquette, Sue Ellen (Dr. Daniel) Fealko of Syracuse, NY, Linda of Marquette, Sara (Chris) Chappell of Jacksonville, FL, eight grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Norman, in 1998, her son, Bruce, in 1965, parents Frank Raymond and Lillian (Swensen) Cole, four sisters, five brothers, and best friends, Marian Schwitzgoebel and Bette Wright.

Visitation will be at Swanson-Lundquist Funeral Home at 926 N. Third St. from 4:00-7:00 pm on Wednesday evening. The funeral will be at Messiah Lutheran Church on Thursday evening, October 10, at 6:00 pm with Rev. David Van Kley and Rev. Amanda Kossow officiating. Burial will be in the Park Cemetery in Marquette. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Messiah Lutheran Church or to the charity of your choice.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Martha Short, Melissa Broeders, P.A., and Dr. Nelson Gencheff for their care over the years. We also wish to thank the staff of Lake Superior Hospice and Arcadia Home Health for their care and support.

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