Mother, grandmother, active church member. Born Feb. 17, 1925, in Brantford, Ont., died Oct. 30, 2012, of natural causes, aged 87.
Ruth Sherman was everyone’s mom. She made her home a centre for many, not just for her family. It was like the safe zone in a child’s game. It attracted neighbourhood children, new immigrants and people with troubled lives.
In family lore there is a story of one Saturday morning when there was a lineup outside the bathroom shared by Ruth, her husband Bill and their five children. Everyone was wondering who was taking a shower, as all the family was accounted for. It turned out to be a friend who knew where the house key was hidden. He had come by late at night, let himself in and slept in the basement.
When her children were in school full time, Ruth became the assistant librarian for the Christian Science Reading Room. There, she met many newcomers to Canada who were eager to talk about God and practise their English. She prayed with them and invited them home for a hot meal.
One of Ruth’s triumphs was her ability to feed twice the number of guests expected for dinner. Her niece liked to kid her about how she proved the Bible’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes. She was known for her delicious roast dinners followed by homemade apple pie and gumdrop cookies.
Her children first learned about the world through Bijou from India, Michael from Nigeria, Carletto from Italy and Georgia from South Africa. For Genevieve and Frederic from France, she provided a Monday meal in exchange for conversational French with the family.
Ruth met Bill when she moved to Toronto from Brantford. His version of their introduction was the preferred one, as it was more romantic. He was ushering at church when he spotted her. “Now, that’s the woman I’m going to marry,” he said to himself. That Christmas, Ruth was warned by friends not to give Bill socks, as that was too personal; they had been dating only a short time. Bill gave her a diamond ring, and they married that summer.
In later years, some neighbours who didn’t know Bill and Ruth by name remarked how lovely it was to see a couple walking hand-in-hand, as was their custom on their regular evening strolls.
It wasn’t unusual for dinner guests to stay at Ruth’s home past midnight, talking about the environment, politics or global issues.
She was always interested in learning. In her later years, she read Three Cups of Tea, Paris 1919 and Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. She’d lost the love of fiction at about the same time as she gave up her subscription to the symphony. She outgrew them, deciding she preferred to visit people who lived alone and needed some friendly conversation.
What she was probably most proud of, though she didn’t speak of it, was that all five of her children followed her example of working actively for their church, which was where her strength and great compassion for others likely had its roots.
One of the many caring notes written about Ruth on her passing summed her up well: “Never failing to see the good in others, she was rarely without an encouraging, uplifting word, and it was always irresistible because it came straight from her heart.”
Rob Sherman is Ruth’s son.