Ruth Little

1925 – 2015

Ruth Little passed away at Swedish Hospital, Ballard on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at the age of 90. She was born February 22, 1925 in St. Paul, Minnesota, the only child of William James Little and Lillian Coulter Little. Ruth moved to Seattle from Minnesota in 1950 and lived on Capitol Hill for many years before moving to her home in the Windermere neighborhood in northeast Seattle in the late 1970s, where she and her dogs could entertain guests, and enjoy gardening and feeding the birds in her back yard. Ruth attended the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree. Although she was very interested in journalism, and was the editor of her high school newspaper, Ruth decided to earn her degree in Social Work. She was inspired by her Aunt Alice’s work as a social worker. Ruth was very interested in people’s wellbeing, caring deeply about their lives. This informed her strong sense of justice from an early age which led her to become active in the YWCA where she served as a Cabinet Member. During her college years in the latter part of World War II, she helped found an organization to promote peace and understanding among nations, the Student Project for Amnesty Among Nations. In the late 1940s Ruth joined the Congress of Racial Equality and served for a time on the national board. Throughout her life she was involved in progressive causes and protested the Vietnam War, the Iraq Wars and the WTO in the streets of Seattle. In the 1980s she was active in the Sanctuary Movement and was arrested during a protest against the Iran-Contra scandal. Ruth received numerous awards over the years; most recently she received an award from the Social Justice Fund Northwest.

Ruth had a great deal of compassion for the underdog, especially for children in crisis. She began her career at Ryther Child Center, and then in the 1970s, and after going back for a Master’s Degree, she went to work as a caseworker for Child Protective Services. Ruth put her heart into the children she got to know through these positions, often bringing them to Magraw family events.

Ruth loved all animals and was very concerned about their well being; she was especially fond of dogs. She owned Tibetan Terriers and over the years she had four, Shanti, Bramble, Piper, and Shadow. Shanti excelled in obedience training events where she won an award for Utility Dog Tracker. Ruth enjoyed this training because it was like a “magnificent treasure hunt”. Ruth was an active member of the University Unitarian Church since 1952 and was the longest attending member. It was a constant in her life from her early days in Seattle. She served on many committees and became active in the Church’s efforts to resettle political refugees from the conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador during the 1980s, taking several into her home until they could get settled. Ruth committed herself to learning Spanish during this time and then continued with her Spanish group until recently, making many dear friends in the process.

Ruth’s refuge was Waldron Island. She began her regular visits there in the 1950s, staying with her second cousin, Jack Magraw, his wife Lizanne and their five daughters. Ruth became part of the family, and she and Lizanne were close friends for over forty years. In the early 1970s she bought property on Waldron and had a geodesic dome built. She loved her walks with the dogs, cookout dinners on the beach, and Waldron community events. Ruth is survived by Jack and Lizanne’s five daughters: Melanie (Mark) Magraw-Mickelson, Alison (Harry) Magraw, and Martha (Jim) Carlson of Seattle; Linnea (Steve) Bensel of Waldron Island; Kristi Magraw of Toronto; along with their children and grandchildren. She also had strong connections with the extended Magraw Family: Dan, Dean and Ruth Magraw; Dick Magraw and family; and the Chuck Magraw family. Ruth is also survived by many friends from her active and involved life: Church, Spanish group, work; as well as those who helped her with great devotion in her later years, Jan Blauer Chima and Jan Bucy.

from the Seattle Times