RUTH STONELEY TRIBUTE
October 17, 2007
When crimson red to purple hues of dawn
When whispy ribbon streaks of white
When the distant rolling hills of home
When viewing God's canvas of the night...
I always looked forward to our time together because we enjoyed that special bond that allows you to accept each other no matter what (or as Ruthie would say...."We love each other, warts and all!"
It was the kind of friendship that allowed you to spill your guts and the other never judged....just listened and listened and listened.
It was the kind of friendship that made you make a phone call to see if the other was alright and usually they were in some kind of trouble and that phone call made it feel better.
It was the kind of friendship that made you know if things really got to a certain point you could pick up the phone and she would do anything to make it better....no matter what.
It was the kind of friendship that... if a year passed or two...you just picked up where you left off, as if it was just yesterday you had been together.
It was the kind of relationship that made you throw your hands in the air and scream..."That woman drives me mental! What makes her do that? And then you would calm down and realize she had the same problems with you!
It was the kind of friendship that made you rejoice in her children's accomplishments and actually enjoy the endless grandchildren stories.
She was passionate about her art and loved the Brisbane art scene. Through her determination and hard work she brought attention to quilting as an art form. She went on to win the Churchill Fellowship and was able to travel to the U.S. where she established many contacts in the quilting world including Virginia Avery who became a mentor and lifelong friend.
To some she appeared reserved and some what aloof. To her friends and family she was Ruthie who loved a good laugh, long evenings over great food, wine and long conversations.
We met many years ago when I went up to Brisbane to teach in her wonderful shop Patchwork Supplies on Cloucester Street in High Gate Hill. The classes were held at the Lithuanian Hall a short way from her shop..... She had a wonderful supportive staff of women. She always booked me for at least four days and more. I immediately fell in love with the High Gate Hill area......a community of alternative lifestyle types; funky, vintage Queensland houses, rolling hills, chickens, dogs and lots of trees........I loved it through and through.
When I found out that some of the trees were mango trees....I was hooked for life....It became a tradition for me to show up during the mango season with a backpack and a suitcase....the suitcase full of teaching supplies and the backpack to hold mangoes! Ruthie would make breakfast while I went out for my walk on which I picked mangoes....some with magpie peck holes or possum bite marks.....(this horrified Ruthie) I would stagger home with a bulging backpack...The morning harvest would be poured into the sink....Ruthie trying to throw out the "unqualified" mangoes, me with both elbows in the sink....mango juice up to my ears.....mango string in my teeth..... Ruthie ranting on about allergies to mangoes; foot and mouth desease.....lots of laughter and banter.......I miss my friend....terribly.
Ruthie was a marvelous designer in quilting, home decor, fashion and fabric design. She was at her happiest when creating.
She filled a big gap for quilters and home sewers by designing beautiful Australian florals that could be used in both quilting, fashion and home decor.
I can remember pouring over drawings and fabric swatches with Ruthie.
The photo on the left side is of a crazy quilt collage I did to commemorate Ruthie's first fabric line. The bride is her mother and the little girl with the long braids, in the lower left, is Ruthie.
I will always remember my friend for one of her most endearing "vices"..... her love for champaigne and good wine.
In the early days we always shared a bottle of bubbly or wine but then....horror of horrors...I developed a severe allegy to both. After several attempts to overcome my allergy and two trips to the emergency ward....I gave it up.
Of course this always went with our favorite meal of "tasty little bits" like good cheeses, sausages, salomies, french bread, seafood, olives, salads, and good fruit (like mangoes) etc. We shared a love for "tasty bits" meals. To meld this all together there was the gossip, the confessions, tales of the latest boyfriend, the confidences, political discussions, the laughter and tears......
I looked forward to our time together every year....it was like a year's worth of therapy in a week!!!!
Time was short and Ruthie came to the rescue by finding a Celebrant who would marry us in the William Ricketts Sanctuary. When he told her that he would marry us naked and dancing on a table if we wanted....she knew he was the one for us. (John Hose became a lifetime friend)
Ruthie and Ernest met a few weeks before we married and hit it off instantly. At this time Ruthie was living under the shop with a beautiful enclosed garden.
A nosy neighbour saw this and called on the telephone. She proceeded to tell Ruthie that a very large black man was skulking around her backyard and to be very careful....Ruthie replied "Oh yes! That's my friend Ernest. He is very large. He is very black and he is very, very nice." With that she hung up, leaving the neighbour speechless.
We were not deterred by the fact that the William Ricketts Sanctuary was now in the hands of the National Heritage and they were not set up for weddings. John Hose had a plan.
It was a marvelous day.....full of laughter and adventure. We smuggled our bouquets in a backpack, paid our entrance fee, and hiked in till we found a perfect place for the ceremony. John pulled his celebrant's shawl from out of his jacket pocket.. Ruthie, Gloria and Di whipped out their flowers and read the appropriate passages...We were joined by several passing people and it was wonderful!!!
After posing for numerous photos we then trooped over to the Tea Room and had a proper Devonshire tea. We signed all the papers and took more photos.
The photos above are of Ernest with Ruthie and me at a restaurant in Brisbane. We had a great time together.....
Below and on the left is Ruthie and me in Melbourne, the morning of our wedding. Everyone had met for breakfast. This is my favorite photo of us and it sits on my desk.........
The art museum day was more peaceful. We alway went to one special area so I could see Sydney Long's "Spirit of The Plains". It features a beautiful naked woman playing a flute, leading a flock of dancing Brolga Cranes. He is my favorite painter.
We always made time to see the latest museum show and were constantly stopped by people who recognized Ruthie and wanted a visit. She gave so much of her time to the museum, serving as a board member and adviser.
On our very last visit to the museum, I had coaxed Ruthie out of the house....for lunch at the Museum and a special art show by two Australian women artists.
While Ruthie was a dear friend, a marvelous teacher and a talented artist, above everything else she was a proud mother. She had raised Ben and Adam on her own and was fearsomely protective. She loved and adored her boys. She alway thought they were her greatest achievement. There was a bond among the three that was unmistakable and unspoken.
Our sons met years ago when Jason joined me on a tour down under. He had just turned eighteen (legal drinking age in Australia) and Ruthie welcomed him with an amazing gift. When we entered the house she went to the kitchen and flung open the fridge door to reveal over thirty bottle of beer of every brand and type known to man (or at least the local pub). He fell instantly in love and from then on Ruthie was to be revered as Mum's special friend!
Adam came over to meet Jason and they hit it off. They spent lots of time together and even went to a rock concert. But most of all they enjoyed that beer!
Ruth and Ben came over to the U.S. for the International Quilt Market and we spent a lot of time together. Ernest and I were able to entertain them in Los Angeles at our home. It was nice to see them together and it was one of Ruth's greatest prides that Ben was in business with her.
Meanwhile Adam and his wife Paige were putting down roots. Ruth was delighted in Paige and so proud of Adam's accomplishments. (He is in oncology lab at the Brisbane Hospital that looked after Ruthie.)
But words could not express the source of pride when they produced her wonderful grandson Wills. She called the day after he was born, raving on about how he looked like both of them and how beautiful he was. By now she had sold the shop and moved to a terrific condominium with a small back garden. She had converted the garage into a studio.
She was teaching embroidery classes at the local church and had a very loyal group of students. They later proved to be a godsend when some of them banded together to get Ruthie to her chemo and radiation appointments.
A couple of years later Ruthie phoned to tell me about her cancer. She was very frightend and aprehensive. I was stunned. It just wasn't fair. Ruthie deserved some peace of mind and happiness. There were numerous phone calls and letters written.
On my last teaching trip I arranged for eight extra days to spend with Ruthie. It was the least I could do for my dear friend. I was worried that she wouldn't be up to my visit. She met me at the airport with Paige, Wills and the newest pride and joy, her grandaughter Kitty! It was easter week and there was someone dressed as a huge Rabbit with a basket standing in the lobby. He came over to say hello to the children.....It was lovely.
We saw a lot of Adam, Paige and the children. Wills came over to make cookies one day and we went for a long walk. It was a saving grace for Ruthie to have him in her life. I think he kept her going in the hard times. I hope he remembers all the wonderful times with his grandma Ruthie... That is Wills and his grandmother in the photo on the left.
I went off to teach on the Gold Coast and returned in a week. It seemed that my friend had really rallied. She even ate a huge steak and salad at an outdoors favorite restaurant of ours. We went to the art museum and even went out a couple of times to a local Thai restaurant.....I was really excited.
Ruthie called me to tell me about the new creative surge she was going through. She had rearranged some furniture and had added a heart I had given her to the wall collection. (She loved yellow and hearts) She told me some funny stories about Wills and Kitty and also that Ben had found real happiness with his new lady...It was a happy phone call. Maybe she could come over to stay with us.
It wasn't meant to be. A few months the cancer returned with a vengence. There were many phone calls and letters. It seemed to be easing but then the phone rang in the middle of the night and it was Paige calling to tell us that Ruthie was in the hospital and it was terminal. It was like a bad dream. My dear friend was dying and so far away.
She had lost the battle and in the final weeks her family, sibblings and mother all rallied around. Karen kept me up to date and then there was the phone call from Adam and Ben. I was in the middle of a seminar in my studio....it was a Sunday evening. Ruthie was gone.
I still cannot believe it but I do know that when I push the publish button on this tribute....it will be my reality.
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