Every one to whom much is given,
Of him will much be required. Luke 12:48
On Sunday, December 3, 2017, Ruth Mary Close died peacefully on Mercer Island where she had lived for over 100 years. Ruth Mary attended Garfield High School and graduated from the University of Washington where she met her love, Don Close; they were married for 68 years.
Ruth Mary’s life was marked by deep faith, love of family and friends, gratitude for the beauty in creation, leadership in the Episcopal Church, a love of islands from Mercer Island to Tofino on Vancouver Island and a passion for woodcarving. Ruth Mary lived her faith; she believed strongly in intercessory prayer and prayed daily. Her marked up copy of The Book of Common Prayer shows notes, checkmarks for the service of morning prayer, prayer lists and a count of her readings from the Psalms; her Prayer book was always by her side. A lifelong Episcopalian, Ruth Mary’s tenure as president of the Episcopal Church Women was a period of deepening faith and friendships. She met Madeleine L’Engle, Ann B. Davis (Shultzy of the Brady Bunch) and other significant women and men of faith. At one national convention Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave the address and she often recalled her encounter in the elevator with the Archbishop when he guffawed and said “they gave me room 222, Bishop Tutu in 222.” Everyone chuckled.
Ruth Mary and Don shared a love of gardening; they nurtured their home garden and were instrumental in the expansion of the University of Washington Arboretum. Ruth Mary wrote several articles for the Arboretum Bulletin. Many of the plants in their garden were grown from seed; she lovingly thanked her rhodies and azaleas for their blooms each year.
Tofino, British Columbia became their place of refuge during August. The entire family loved beach combing, boating and living from the bounty of the sea. “The best of times were our times at Tofino,” Ruth Mary often remarked. Tofino provided an endless supply of wood for Ruth Mary to carve using First Nation designs. This mite of a woman would tackle a large hunk of Alaskan cedar and carve a totem. A lifetime of carving leaves behind many masks, a native blanket box, canoe paddles and totems.
Ruth Mary and Don endowed the first chair at the University of Washington Electrical Engineering Department with an emphasis on renewable energy. Recently the EE magazine, “The Integrator”, highlighted the importance of that gift by saying, “The Close family professorship became a transformative catalyst for emboldening the power and energy research at U of W Electrical Engineering… the impact of this professorship will be palpable in the way the world thinks about energy.”
Ruth Mary Close is survived by her children: Marilyn O’Neill, Catherine Close, David Close and wife Wendy, Frank Close and wife Terri, and Christine Close-Erskine and her husband Jack. She was preceded in death by her husband Don and eldest son Richard. Our beloved Gigi leaves behind 13 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
A service celebrating the life of Ruth Mary Close will be held on Wednesday, December 13 at 2:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Mercer Island. Remembrances can be sent to Emmanuel Church Memorial Garden Fund.