Ruth Charlotte Boss Morito 1925-2012
Gregory and I lived on Poplar Avenue in Evanston for approximately 25 years. During that time we got to know our end of the block neighbor Ruth. She was the classic, self created, incomparable woman who in no way resembled the "norm" of Evanston. It was said that she was never quite herself after her husband and young son died within the same year. Who could blame her? Here are some memories of those 25 years.
Living alone, with a dog who would terrify most of us, she was needy for conversation. You could always find her hanging out on the corner, weeding her garden, chatting with the postman, the UPS driver, and various neighbors. It was fun chatting with her but you had to gracefully edge yourself away or she would continue to chat for hours. If you were in a hurry you waved hello and went the other way.
She would often sit on Central Street (pictured above) and paint. She became somewhat of a neighborhood icon to shoppers visiting the area, shop owners, and neighbors alike. She could paint and chat (non-stop) at the same time. She was charming and had many admirers.
Ruth was the neighborhood WATCH committee in the shape of one person. Because she was home most of the day, and outside tending her garden (weeds?), she kept an eye on things. If she noticed unusual people or activities she would let the police (whom she befriended) know or let you know as a neighbor if something affected you or your property. She was always up to date on the neighborhood gossip, in a good way.
As an artist, Ruth could be seen prowling the Northwestern Railroad berm (eventually renamed METRA) collecting interesting vines and leaves. Over the years we were the proud recipients of beautiful, natural wreaths that she fashioned out of her findings.
After her mastectomy, she wore a key ring, with what seemed like 100 keys, fastened to her blouse over the missing breast. She said it made her feel more balanced and less like she was going to tip over.
Ruth used to drive a school bus for Evanston Schools and was adored by the children she picked up and dropped off every day. Sadly, as her cataracts grew worse she had to give up driving. I am not sure if she couldn't afford the surgery or if she was mortally frightened at having it.
Her yard was a source of dismay for many neighbors. I really liked it. It was overgrown, weed filled (weeds are only what people don't want growing in their garden and Ruth loved them all) and blooming most of the spring and summer. The dead trees and rotting stumps were home to many of Evanston's wildlife including squirrels, raccoons, ground squirrels, possums, and who knows what else.
Every now and then the city would intervene and threaten her with a fine if she didn't clean up the area. The neighbors would pitch in and help but Ruth would always be there supervising these "cleanups" with her hands on her hips, firmly instructing the helpers what to cut down and what not to touch.
For several years I volunteered to mow her lawn (read cut her weeds with my lawn mower.) Of course she would supervise as I wove a path between the weeds she liked and the ones she could give up. When I was finished, instead of a beautifully mown, line marked lawn, the area around her house looked more like an obstacle course.
When Gregory and I did some remodeling and purchased a new refrigerator, we offered Ruth our old one. She did not have one and went shopping every day or bought things that didn't need refrigeration. She turned down the offer with, "That is really nice of you but I have so many art supplies that I do not have room in my kitchen for a refrigerator."
I am pleased to say I never saw the inside of her house but understand that between the dog, and the "art supplies," and the piles of newspapers, etc, one could say it was not quite as sanitary a place as a human being should live in.
One year, the city sent out a social worker who gained Ruth's confidence, and the two of them, at the city's expense (or loan?) helped clean out and fix up the house. The place was really turned around and we think Ruth actually was able to take pride in the new work done.
At night (or should I say sundown) when you would pass Ruth's house you could see only one exposed light bulb burning in her bedroom and the rest of the house was dark. I seem to remember however, that she slept downstairs because the trip upstairs became too strenuous for her.
For the sake of full disclosure, every Christmas, Gregory and I would slip an envelope and holiday card, marked "anonymous," with $100.00 under her door. We hope that in our small way we were able to make her holiday a little happier. It made us happy to be able to do that for her.
Gregory and I moved to downtown Evanston five years ago and Ruth moved into a nursing home. We lost touch although heard of her progress via old neighborhood friends. After she recovered from the illness that sent her to the home, she lived a comfortable life at the home with neighborhood friends taking care of her and her affairs to the end. She knew that she was in good hands with Bernice and Jeff and they treated her like one would treat their mother in need. Bless them.
This Saturday we will go to Ruth's service. I am happy for Ruth, I am sad for myself.
For an even more in depth remembrance, check out Patti Crew's BLOG. She is a neighbor, fellow writer, and friend. After reading about Ruth, check out some of her other writing. I think you'll enjoy her "stuff."
Morito, Ruth Boss
A long time Evanston resident, Ruth Charlotte Boss Morito passed away on December 27, 2012 after a long illness. Ruth was the mother of James "Jimmy" Morito who died in July 2011 and Charles Morito who died in May 1970. Both sons were ETHS graduates. A grandson, Charles “Charlie” Morito of Carlsbad, California, survives Ruth.
Ruth was born in Washington, D.C. on August 26, 1925 to Hazel and Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boss, Jr. Her father was Executive Secretary of the Board of World Peace for the Methodist Church and lifelong peace activist.
A well-known local artist, Ruth often set up her easel on Central Street and painted local streetscapes. She won first place at several Evanston Women’s Club art shows. One of her mentors was Walter Burt Adams, a nationally known painter of Evanston buildings. In her later years, Ruth could be found in front of her house, daily greeting commuters, schoolchildren, and neighbors. Her friends will greatly miss her smiles and stories.
A memorial service will be held on February 10 at 4 pm at First United Methodist Church of Evanston, 516 Church Street. Internment at Memorial Park Cemetery is private.