Monday, May 31, 2010

Cousin Don on Aunt Ruth

A Tribute to Aunt Ruth

Ruth came into my life when she married my mother’s brother, Sam when I was about 8 years old. My mother died just around the time they married and newlywed Ruth offered to my 65 year old father to take me in and take care of me for an indefinite period of time. My father was too proud to take advantage of this generous offer and turned it down. Ruth and Sam did the best they could though, to offer my father a respite and me a caring place to go on many weekends, first to their apartment in Astoria and then to their new apartment in Queensview.

Aunt Ruth was a force. She was guided by an unwavering belief in the obligations of people to one another and in not just saying but doing the right thing. So not only did she reach out to me but she provided a home for her father-in-law, my grandfather, for many years. On holidays she made her home the gathering place for her family: Sam, Sara and Mitchell and their friends and significant others and for Sam’s limited extended family and a variety of other people who had nowhere else to go. Even after Sam and Ruth divorced she continued to embrace the stray members of Sam’s family as her own. For me, from the start of our relationship almost 60 years ago, until the day she died, Ruth was a rock of support. For my children, Tara and Alexa, Aunt Ruth became the focal point of family. For many years we stayed with her for the Thanksgiving holiday and they too learned much from Ruth’s shining example.

In my 20’s when I was teaching school in New York City, she helped mentor me in the ways of dealing with challenging inner city kids. When I started graduate school in psychology she helped line up kids in the co-op for my testing subjects. When I moved to Michigan to continue graduate work she gave me dishes and silverware to supplement my inadequate supply. When my kids were growing up she opened bank account for them and made regular deposits in the account at the Greenpoint Savings Bank so they would have a little something to help when they grew up. Jannis, my wife of 6 years, had the good fortune of getting to know Ruth on several of our recent Thanksgiving trips to New York and in many phone conversations and Jannis too, in these relatively few years, came to love and appreciate Ruth.

Beyond the family, Ruth lived life according to her principled code. As a social worker and then a teacher, as a union member and a co-op officer she was always a fighter for what she believed was right and, as all who knew her quickly learned, Ruth Langbert was never one to back down from an issue or an argument she believed in. Good –bye Aunt Ruth. I will miss you very much and will never forget you.


Morenci Jake said...

We enjoyed your srticle on your Aunt Ruth.

Having just lost our dear friend, Cecilia Berkenfeld, aka Celia, we thought she might be the half sister to Ruth, who lived in New York. Celia'a dad was Max, her mom Elsie. She always mentioned her sister who was a teacher in New York as well as in Israel after she retired. Could this be the same aunt Ruth Celia mentioned?

Mitchell Langbert said...

Dear Friends:

Yes, she was. I called Lydia around the time Celia died. Unfortunately, I could not attend the funeral because of the distance. We had flown Celia here to New York for my mother's funeral in 2010. I was deeply saddened by Celia's death. Feel free to contact me at