Sunday, September 8, 2013

Immortality (September 8, 2013) -- Ruth Eaton (Cooke) Carpenter

"Immortality Lies in Being Remembered by Family and Friends." -- John D. Tew 

Since 1979, the first Sunday after Labor Day has been proclaimed as a national celebration day, but unfortunately it is a little known and largely unrecognized or ignored celebratory day.  Today is the first Sunday after Labor Day 2013 and so it means that today is National Grandparents Day, as first proclaimed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.  The catalyst for a day celebrating grandparents was a woman from West Virginia named Marian Lucille (Herndon) McQuade (1917 - 2008).  Marion's motivation for establishment of a celebration day for grandparents was a desire to promote a means for helping the lonely elderly in nursing homes, but she also dreamed of persuading grandchildren to "tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide."  Mrs. McQuade lived to age 91 and at the time of her death in 2008 she had 15 children, 43 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

1989 10th Anniversary commemorative envelope by the U.S. Postal Service

Because today is National Grandparents Day 2013, it is also a particularly appropriate day for me to do a post in the occasional, but ongoing, "Immortality" series I have established here at The Prism. Today is the 116th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandmother, Ruth Eaton (Cooke) Carpenter, and this is the first opportunity since the founding of this blog less than nine months ago to formally remember my "Gramma Ruth."

I have mentioned Ruth numerous times in other posts on The Prism, but in remembering her today I want to focus just on her and her life.

Ruth was born in North Attleboro, Massachusetts on September 8, 1897 to Walter Wilson Cooke and his wife Florence Leonette Flagg.  Ruth was the third of four daughters.  She also had two brothers, both of whom died in infancy.  Her younger sister Dorothy died young at age 7 due to typhoid fever.  Ruth's mother also died young in 1904 at age 34 when Ruth was only 7.  Ruth and her two older sisters, Helen and Lois, were the only ones of the six children to survive to adulthood. Despite all this sadness and heartache, my grandmother graduated from high school as the salutatorian of her class, married Everett Carpenter in 1926, and had three children including my mother.  

Ruth was an avid gardener and always had a spectacular flower garden in her yard.  She was a long-time member of the Cumberland Garden Club and the Club has honored her with a Memorial Garden behind what is now the Cumberland Library on the grounds of the former Cistercian Monastery on Diamond Hill Road in Cumberland.  

Today I raise a glass in memory of my grandmother!

Ruth Eaton Cooke (left) with her sister Dorothy

Ruth E. Cooke circa 1915

Ruth with her father Walter circa 1918

Ruth Eaton Cooke (1926)

Ruth tending her garden at 551 High Street, Cumberland, RI

Ruth and Everett Carpenter

Ruth E. (Cooke) Carpenter

My mother in the Memorial Garden maintained
 in Cumberland, RI in memory of her mother, Ruth E. Carpenter.

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Image of 1989 commemorative envelope for the 10th anniversary of National Grandparents Day showing alikeness of Marian McQuade from

All photographs of Ruth Eaton (Cooke) Carpenter are from the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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  1. What a lovely tribute to your grandmother! She was a beautiful woman.

    She definitely experienced tragedy in her life with the loss of her mother and several of her siblings.

  2. Thank you Jana! She was quite a lady in my book. It is through her that I am a descendant of Richard Warren of the Mayflower via two of his daughters. I miss my grandmother and wish she had lived long enough to see that I was able to prove the Mayflower descent she first told me was a family tradition she had always heard. I would have so many genealogy questions to ask her if I could sit with her again for just a few hours.

  3. What a fine tribute to your grandmother, John. She was a beautiful young woman and your photographs of her are so good. I thought it was interesting that you used "gramma" instead of "grandma." I use "gramma" too, I guess because that's the way I pronounce it.

    How wonderful that you were able to prove the Mayflower descent. You didn't say how long ago she passed away but it's too bad you weren't able to ask her questions.