Ruth June (Black) Hedges, a creative and much loved woman, died peacefully of old age on April 27, 2021 at the age of 99 ½ after a long, interesting and worthwhile life. Ruth accomplished many things, but her life was about the joy she brought to people, the beauty that she surrounded herself with, both in her home and in the community, and the generosity and friendship she showed to so many.
Ruth was born to the late Nellie (Toner) and Archie D. Black on October 13, 1921, in Warren, Pennsylvania. She, her siblings and in-laws were close their entire lives: siblings-- Gerald (Gerry) and Doris Black, Richard (Dick) and Elizabeth Black, Bruce and Norma Black and Patricia (Black) and Charles Williams; in-laws—Hulda and Harry Hedges. Her love of nature and the outdoors began visiting her grandparents farm and hiking the Allegheny Mountains. While she loved exercise and weather of all types, she especially loved a walk and a “friendly” rain. Ruth graduated from Warren High School and continued on a course of lifelong learning. She was a voracious reader who devoured books, magazines and newspapers with equal gusto. During the Second World War, she married the late Eugene B. (Pete) Hedges, a high school sweetheart and B-25 pilot in the Central Pacific. They lived in California and Indiana before locating to Jackson, Michigan, where they raised their two girls and an assortment of dogs, rabbits and ducks. The family enjoyed each other’s company and spirited conversation over home cooked meals at breakfast and dinner every day until the girls left for college. She was a superb cook and a genius in baking with yeast. She will be remembered for hot bread out of the oven and amazing sweet rolls. Ruth orchestrated great family time at Hickory Sticks, their farm in Parma, Michigan and at Good Harbor, their cottage on Lake Michigan, as well as vacations at Isle Royale and a national park road trip in one of the first RVs. Ruth was a graceful ice skater. Although not a part of her growing up, Ruth and Pete learned to sail and ski which became family activities. With an empty nest, Ruth traveled extensively in the United States and internationally, both for fun and with Pete when he consulted for the World Bank after his retirement from Consumers Power Company. She was consummately kind and patient with Pete during his many years of Alzheimer’s.
Ruth also loved music, especially symphonies, and her daughters played piano, flute and cello. The day before her death, she listened to a private performance of several of her favorite songs including “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “A Song of Peace” from Finlandia:
This is my song
Oh gods of all the nations.
A song of peace for lands so far away.
This is my home, a country where my heart is
Here grew my hopes and dreams for all mankind.
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight shines on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my prayer, o gods of all the nations
A song of peace for their lands and for mine.
Ruth offered and received abundant friendship throughout her life. In Jackson, Ruth and Pete were part of a group that would be at the heart of their adventures and friendships for the rest of their lives: the “Sewing Club.” Ruth gathered her great many friends near and dear to her heart. She welcomed them through her “yellow door.” She was a frequent and gracious entertainer. She believed that everything tasted better by fireside or by candlelight. Lifelong friends include her neighbors at 865 Albright Drive and Vista Grande Villa, members of Arbor Grove Congregational Church, her extended family, the Bridge Club, Questers, Calculating Women, Ella Sharp Museum, Kiwanis, the Audubon Society, Ali Baba Dance Club, Art Appreciation, Habitat for Humanity, the Jackson Symphony, Candy Stripers, Girl Scouts, shopkeepers and strangers she chanced to meet and strike up a conversation with, and many, many others.
Ruth is survived by her two daughters for whom she was a role model: Susan (William) Patton of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Patricia Sipes Hedges of Portland, Oregon. She raised her daughters to be loving, independent, value education and work hard. She valued four seasons, fresh air, outdoor play and camp. She has four terrific grandchildren: William Hunter (Arielle) Patton of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jessica (Dan) Aleksandrow Sipes of Perth, Australia, Graham Thomas (Brittney) Patton of Ann Arbor, Michigan and Nathaniel Bradford (Natalie) Sipes of Boise, Idaho. Great Grandchildren are Margaux, Eloise and Cecilia Patton; Calder and Mawson Aleksandrow; and David and Jonathan Sipes. Ruth’s favorite color was cerulean blue, which is also the favorite color of her two daughters, granddaughter and a great granddaughter. Ruth was blessed by many friends. Special people who enriched her life included the caring and patient staff at Vista Grande Villa and Trellis Gardens and her talented multi-disciplinary team of staff and a special volunteer at Allegiance Hospice.
In accordance with Ruth’s wishes, she has been cremated and her ashes scattered in places that were special in her life. Ruth was grateful for every day. Ruth’s good life and good deeds will keep her alive in memory and spirit. Ruth wanted no flowers to be sent or donations to be made on her behalf. The family certainly intends to respect her wishes, but we also feel it would be a fitting tribute to her to take a moment to reflect on a life well spent and to reflect on how we, too, can live well and do good in the world. Ruth loved this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
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