RUTH EMERY CAMPBELL was born 16 May 1891 at Lima (Allen Co.), Ohio, while her parents lived there for a short interlude. After that the family lived in Muncie, Indiana for a few years (circa 1894-1900), then in Chicago, Illinois. As a young lady she was considered a local beauty of Chicago, where she grew up, and was a strong-willed and determined personality. As she wrote of herself in 1972, she was "a self supporting, independent, way-ahead-of-my-time...person." She was also a cheerful, philosophical, gregarious, and friendly person who made many friends.
Her early working positions (prior to marriage) included being a filing clerk for a newspaper in Chicago, and a traveling sales representative for the Gossett Corset Company (she packed a pistol with her for protection as she rode the trains around her territory, and developed very strong hands from lacing and unlacing corsets to demonstrate the products to salesladies in various stores--she could crush the hand of a masher with her handshake if she wanted to). After meeting her future husband at a boarding house where they were both staying in Fort Smith, Arkansas (and dating him on a dare from her female friends at the boarding house), she married John Crocker Fisher, Jr. on 3 October 1916 in Washington, D.C. They lived in D.C. (1916-1919), then moved to Ithaca, New York for John's position as a U.S. Weather Service meteorologist. In Ithaca they had two sons.
Following the progression of John's career, the family moved to Syracuse, New York (1929-1932, where Ruth attended classes at Syracuse University for one year), back to Ithaca (1932-1937), and then to Columbus, Ohio (1937-1942). They enjoyed taking family road trips out to the West Coast with their young sons in the days when frequent stops had to be made to fix flat tires (1931, 1935). Ruth kept scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and postcards, and diaries of their adventures and travels. She was ready for anything, a good sport, with a great sense of humor.
While living in Columbus they chanced to take a summer vacation road trip to Drummond Island, Michigan in 1937, and fell in love with the place and the people. They repeated the experience the following summer and bought Miss Lillian Maxey's little summer cabin on Tourist Road. They returned there every summer until they spent their first winter there after John retired in 1942. Although John died there suddenly in February 1943, Ruth loved the island and the life there so much that she continued to summer in the cabin for the rest of her life and considered Drummond her legal and real home.
As she wrote from Drummond in the summer of 1943, "I find it lonely, of course, but very beautiful and restful. Many good friends help to make the time pass pleasantly."
In fact, many of her Columbus friends were introduced to Drummond through her (and John, before he died), and they fell in love with it as well. She participated in Island events every year, worked at the Bazaars, visited friends, and hosted and joined in parties and dinners that were remembered on Drummond for years afterwards (including her "luau" where she buried and roasted a pig in the beach sand). Ruth loved to entertain and socialize while on the island, and was long remembered there for her hospitality, her vibrant and funloving personality, and her funny stories. She was, after all, the kind of woman content to let her husband and sons build a boat in their Columbus dining room for fishing at Drummond, even though they had to remove the window frame of the room to get the boat outside when it was done. In fact, she saved the clipping in her scrapbook. ("Oh, Oh, Look Out for Flood; Weatherman Is Building Boat in His Dining Room!" by George Hage, Columbus Citizen, February 23, 1938.)
As the author, Jill Lowe Brumwell, wrote: "I remember Ruth Fisher from my childhood. My memories are of a friendly, jovial person, with a beautiful smile. A person you felt comfortable with, even if you were just a little kid, and she was a grownup."
Ruth died of a kidney infection at the age of 81 on 5 August 1972 after a four-day stay at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and was cremated. Memorial services for her were held in Columbus on 17 August 1972 and at the Drummond Island Congregational Church on August 19, 1972. Her ashes are buried in the Fisher family plot at Drummond Island Cemetery, Drummond Island (Chippewa Co.), Michigan.
The following is an excerpt from her memorial service delivered by Pastor Dolores Lobdell of the Drummond Island Congregational Church:
Life, you know, is very much like a day. The early morning hours are babyhood, the morning is youth, high noon of maturity, and then evening comes and the day ends. Life is measured in deeds. Not just the passing of time but in the things that you and I do. And each one of us have our own idiosyncrasies, our little peculiarities that cause us to stand out from others. And Ruth had hers. We remember her as a very trusting soul. I can remember, and others of you will remember also, at times we would find a purse laying somewhere, wide open! We'd say, "Whose purse is this?" And we would know immediately. Her purse was always lost; no, not really--it was just left. And it was always left open. And I can remember saying to her one time, "Ruth, somebody is going to take something out of that purse one of these days." And I can remember her saying in her own way, "Well, if they need it more than I do, they can have it." And that was Ruth.
She also excelled in another field. She excelled in the culinary arts also. One of her greatest joys was to cook and then invite her friends in to enjoy it. And how pleasant are these memories. I can remember some of those times, too, and they were precious times. And it's only been in the last two or three years that I really got to know Ruth at all. But these were pleasant times. She also possessed another rare ability which I didn't know anything about but others knew about which, may I say to you this afternoon, is very characteristic of our older generation. My mother also carried this characteristic, and that was, starting with nothing and coming up with a full meal. I can remember hearing my mother say, "There isn't a thing in the house" and company would walk in and before she was through, it was almost a banquet. Well, this is a rare ability, but some of our older generation had this rare ability, and Ruth was one of them. Starting with nothing and coming up with something, and she took great pride in this.
I'd like to reminisce one more time this afternoon. Many of us will remember Ruth hustling and bustling on Bazaar Day at the bake table—this was her place. And she would just hustle and bustle around there, getting everything marked and getting everything in place, and we missed her there this year. But you know, God always raises up someone to pick up our mantle and to carry on the work. And he will do the same for Ruth. We're going to miss her. Dreadfully we're going to miss her. But God will supply and fill that place.
I would like you to notice also that life is not measured in deeds, it's not measured merely in making money. It is not measured in fame or brilliance. The greatest souls are those who do not flaunt their accomplishments. And many times we do not know the value of these individuals until they are gone. And we realize how very much they contributed. And happy is the individual who goes about doing good.
Then as evening comes we recall the activities of the day that has passed. And we see in a clearer perspective the great moral principles of life. The things of real worth stand out. May I share with you this afternoon a letter which Ruth wrote almost 20 years ago, and she wrote this letter to her children, and left it, not to be opened or read until she was gone. And I want to share this. I tried to pick out just parts from it but I just couldn't; I couldn't separate any of it, and I want to share this letter with you, for it gives us another look at the life of this woman.
"My dear children: John, Jo Ann, Bob, and Stella,
"It is with an odd feeling that I sit down to write this letter to you all. It is a beautiful warm summer day and nearing the end of the loveliest summer I remember on Drummond. I feel fine and haven't a worry about anything. You're doing so well. Your children are splendid. And the future is bright for all of us. Perhaps it is the best time to write you all a letter which probably will not be read until I am no longer with you. When that time arrives I pray that you will all be as well, happy, and with as bright futures as you have now.
"My generation leaves to yours a world that is in a horrible mess. And I suspect that's the condition each older generation thinks the world is in. Just because things are different doesn't necessarily mean that you and your children won't enjoy your lives and times. So, from one who is in the habit of giving you all advice over the years, just remember that character determines the value of a man or a woman. By developing our great potentials we achieve our immortality. If, when we are gone, our contribution through our children, our friends, our community, and our work are remembered with admiration, why, then we have been successful people. My own life has been a very fortunate one. I have been blessed with health, love, children, security, friends, opportunities for enjoyment, and a naturally merry heart. And I pray that when I leave this old earth it will be by a fast method, and before I have lost my ability to enjoy life and be a more or less pleasure to have around, thus saving us all heartache. Words cannot tell how much good I wish for you all, or how much love I have for you, John and Bob, Jo and Stella.
John Crocker Fisher
1891 - 1972