Uncle Ruthie Tribute

Uncle Ruthie

Uncle Ruthie Tribute

According to her friend Juan Angeles, our precious, smart, feisty, creative, 92-year-old friend and national treasure Uncle Ruthie Buell passed away Sunday, Feb. 12 at 3:30pm.

Uncle Ruthie was the definition of ‘dance like nobody’s watching’: Being present and not overwhelmed or concerned by others’ expectations. We were guests on her KPFK radio show in May of 1975 and our mutual admiration and friendship grew from there. We enjoyed the days of creating our shows for children and their families for Chanukah and other fun events. You always brought a bag full of talents; your original songs and classic stories; that distinctive portable organ; harmonies, sign language and tons of energy and of course, yummy latkes and other homemade treats to tickle our taste buds. Your contributions were endless whether on stage, in the recording studio, or on your long-running radio show. You were unique. You are missed. There will never be another Uncle Ruthie.

John & Pam – J.P. Nightingale

Uncle Ruthie Buell and I were pals. We went out to movies and meals, cooked each other lunch, fed the ducks at the park, and, most gloriously, exchanged songs at her piano. I sang one for every ten by her—she was hard to stop once she got going, and I did not want her to stop! She was a brilliant songwriter, poet, and performer. She was delightfully un-humble. I mean, uh, confident. Oh my, she was hilarious and smart and insightful and irreverent. She held us spellbound. She was a masterful storyteller whether at the dinner table or on the stage. To say she was candid is an understatement—she told it exactly like it was. She had phenomenal energy, passion, and drive. Her eyes sparkled. Her heart was true. Her laughter was magical. I kinda had a crush on her. She adored her daughter Irene and sons Tony and Danny. She was devoted to her schoolchildren. She was a whirlwind of love and creativity and resourcefulness and wit. I can close my eyes and see her impish grin and recall the sometimes outlandish (in the most wonderful ways) things she did and said. She imitated no one—she was 100% Ruthie all the time. Oh, I’m so sad she had to go.

Dave Kinnoin

I remember meeting Uncle Ruthie at my very first national conference in Washington, DC. I was very shy at that conference, quaking in my boots meeting such powerhouse joyful people. I remember being tongue-tied meeting Dave Kinnoin in the elevator, and being up close to Ruth Pelham I could hardly breathe! But, bit by bit my comfort level grew and I am so grateful for Uncle Ruthie and all of you vibrant souls who carry forth the magic of music in children’s lives (and the inner-child in all of us!)

With gratitude for the life of Uncle Ruthie, (whose name always made me smile)

Dorothy Cresswell

It is sad indeed to learn of Uncle Ruthie’s passing, and yet I’m smiling as I remember her cranky, brilliant and funny self.

She did not suffer fools.

She loved performing. She loved singing and telling stories and writing and reciting poetry, but she loved husband Stanley most. She had an amazing memory.

Children loved her. I saw it with my own eyes when I visited one of her schools in Los Angeles about 9 years ago. I think they knew they had a friend, a protector and an advocate in Unc.

She was very proud of the Poetry Tree in front of her house, dotted with slips of paper with poems inscribed on them.

One thing I loved about her was her belief we could all be better people and do better.

May her memory be for a blessing.

Susan Salidor

Truly a sadness. On this Valentines Day I must say Uncle Ruthie was a love. Back in 2008 she & I bonded over both having double knee surgery at the same time. She in S California , me in N California. She 2 new knees, me 2 knee clean outs (that really were probably due to my Dr ‘needing’ a new boat!). She just kept us both laughing thru our recoveries. She was a truly special, incredibly intelligent, creative, & talented woman.

Mara Beckerman

This is such sad news to learn. Uncle Ruthie was a beautiful, joyful force of nature, and it was an honor to have met her and learned from her.

Tina Stone

Uncle Ruthie was an amazing force of nature and life and light…

I like to think that her light is now spread out amongst all of us who strive to bring that same beauty and humor into our challenged world. She had that real natural touch for pointing out the funny in the human condition that kids can usually see better than adults.

May her memory be for a blessing. Somewhere in CMN we probably have an archive of past Magic Penny presentations…well worth the viewing to remember her unique spirit…and introduce her to anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to know her.

Joanie Calem

Oh how sad… but I feel blessed to have known her. She was a unique treasure, and I’m glad that she lived a long, full life with many friends and supporters.

Patricia Shih

Such a treasure! I am grateful that I got to speak to her once. Ruthie is one of a kind, a fabulous humorist, and a generous soul. She will be missed.

Val Smailkin

I remember, some 20 years ago, Uncle Ruthie’s generous offer to put me up for a night on a visit to Southern California. She was a gracious hostess, introducing me to her husband Stanley and their “cognitively challenged” dog Muttl. (Ruthie’s affectionate description). But my absolutely favorite memory will always be laughing till my sides ached at a CMN National Conference as Uncle Ruthie performed her spot-on musical skit about sibling rivalry. “Maaaaaa! He’s touching my turtle! TELL HIM NOT TO TOUCH MY TURTLE !!” There was only one Uncle Ruthie. But each of us who had the good fortune to cross paths with her will carry a piece of her in our hearts.

Nancy Hershatter

Heartbroken! My, and indeed, all of our favorite Uncle has passed. She was a passionate creative force of nature! Over 45 years we played together, we wrote together, we cried together and, most importantly, we laughed together. I will always love Uncle Ruthie Buell for her support and her dear friendship. This loss hurts deeply and her compassion for her friends, students, and her fans will never die.

Remember Our Ruthie

Dan Crow

Uncle Ruthie was a renaissance woman. She had many skills and passions (Radio Programmer, storyteller, singer/musician, songwriter, poet, cook, baker of Pecan Pies, and teaching Special Education to mention a few.

Once we were on tour in the Pacific N.W. doing children’s concerts and music workshops. We were in Eastern Washington state and we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant. As we finished eating we noticed a big birthday celebration for an elderly lady sitting at the head of a long table with a dozen friends singing “Happy Birthday Olivia”. Ruthie jumped up and told me she had the perfect birthday song to sing to Olivia. She ran outside to the R.V. to get her guitar. I stood by the exit waiting for her. She walked over to the table and whispered something in Olivia’s ear. Then she sang “Cut the Cake” by John McCutcheon. Cut the Cake begins with a 7-year-old who thinks his friends forgot his birthday. They didn’t and by the last verse he is an old man who thinks his friends have forgotten but they remember in this joyful song. After she sang she ran over to me and grabbed my hand and we ran out to the R.V. and jumped in and she drove off. Ruthie said, “I bet they’re saying, who was that masked troubadour with the guitar?” I asked “what did you whisper to Olivia?” She smiled and said, “Olivia, a friend is sending you this song for your special birthday.” That was vintage Uncle Ruthie. And it was the perfect birthday song. Uncle Ruthie was a very special person and friend. I cherish the good times we had together.

Marcia Berman-February 21, 2023

I must have played a hundred gigs with Ruth, backing her up on various stringed instruments: concerts for kids, concerts for adults, radio shows (hers), poetry readings, hanukkah shows, playing a set of her adult songs for the Communist party! Also many recording sessions. Some of her songs made me tear up while I was playing. During the runup to the Iraq war she managed to get some political (but funny) stuff into a children’s concert. There was a kind of genius to some of her songs.

Ruth was a poet and a warrior fighting for many causes. She was a dedicated teacher of blind and otherwise challenged kids. When she had a mastectomy, she wrote a funny song about it. She could be annoying at times, because she knew exactly what she wanted, and was not shy about pushing for it. She did her children’s radio show for decades…it was unique, magical.

On a personal note, when I first brought Lynn over to my house, when Lynn was just my girlfriend, they spoke for a few minutes, and Ruth told me: “Marry her!” She was right, and I did.

Toward the end, when so many physical things were failing, she was anxious to get more copies of some of her CDs duplicated, as she had run out, and I helped her get that done. She didn’t care how much it cost, she was determined to have those. Don’t know what will happen to them now! I hope somebody gets them who can put them up for sale so more people can appreciate her work. I volunteer!

Rest in peace…I loved her, so did Lynn, and we’re so sorry to see her go…But she had a long and very colorful life! When I first knew her she was about 50, but she told me some stories about her youth! I hope Marcia or somebody could share some of those.

Fred Sokolow
  • Marcy Vaj
    Posted at 19:40h, 08 May Reply

    I was fortunate to know Ruthie. She honored me in having me play on her albums and I was always moved deeply by her lyrics and her spirit. She made it ok to sing about things others were afraid to mention, like her mastectomy, and peoples’ otherly abled-ness. One of my favorite songs, Just You And Me, is as profound a song as any, couched in a child’s innocence. She found beauty and worth in every person she encountered and expressed it. Thank you, Ruthie, for your decades-long friendship and respect and enduring love, for not being afraid to share your talents, for being outlandish.
    I and thousands of others will miss you mightily and I hope others will continue to find you in the marvelous catalogue of the internet.

  • Pingback:Remembering the Lovely, Talented Marcia Berman - Topanga New Times
    Posted at 14:08h, 05 April Reply

    […] a growing audience base of supportive families. Further down the road, along with Marcia, Dan Crow, Uncle Ruthie Buell, and Fred Sokolow we created Chanukah At Home, a live concert and album recorded for Rounder […]

  • James Nailor
    Posted at 09:14h, 17 April Reply

    We play “wake up toes” every morning my granddaughter Emilia, I am raising her as I raise my daughter Jeannette ( now 40 with 2 children) with uncle Ruthie! I just saw this I’m so emotional I first heard her on halfway down the stairs on KPFK 90.7 on Saturday mornings or maybe it was Sunday then we started going to her concert and my daughter was four years old like my granddaughter is now, and our special times in Claremont California at the Claremont folk festival. We would go every year!
    Sometimes After her show we would go out to eat Chinese food in Chinatown. She made such an and important impact on so many lies, young, and young at heart! 💓🙏🏽
    RIP dear soul 😢
    Thank you for the music and the fun.
    She also had adult storytimes, and some adult songs
    We had her first LP.

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