Ruthie Antonides with Jack at the 2004
Ski For Wednesday's Child, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.
Memorials are always difficult. What do you say to grieving family
and friends who have lost someone so important to them? For one
thing, we can take a clue from Ruthie herself, who wanted this
to be a day of comfort for those who were so important to her.
She's the one who planned all this-and it says a lot about the
real Ruthie. She was a true friend. Loyalty was one of her many
virtues. I can truthfully say I have never met another Ruthie
Antonides. She was an original, with an iron-willed determination
to do things Ruthie's way. She never was ruled by what the masses
thought she was never part of the herd mentality. I can feel
Ruthie's presence here . surrounded by the mountains she
loved . And by so many of the people who were important to
Ruthie never was very big physically. But-she was tough. Who
always was the first one up to the mountain, already at work before
the first rays of the sun illuminated the snowfields? I never
heard her whine; even during the trying months of chemotherapy
and radiation. Her answer always was the same when we talked,
either on the phone or in person: "I'm okay." Instead
she was worried about my ski race the 21st annual was held
last month here at the mountain. Her daughter Chris told me Ruthie
said this winter that she just hoped to be able to make it through
the event. In fact as late as last week she again was thinking
of the kids, not her suffering. When she heard Chris talking to
me on the phone, she immediately signaled that she wanted to talk.
"Did you get the emails on the room reservations for next
year?" she asked. "What can I do for you Ruthie? Nothing,"
We were able to do something earlier that meant a lot to Ruthie.
It was an idea proposed by Wednesday's Child Endowment board member
Richard Power. "Let's name a public service award after Ruthie,"
suggested Richard. And we decided it should be permanent-given
year after year to people who make a difference in the lives of
special needs children. Somewhat to my surprise, Ruthie was thrilled
with the idea. When we made the award public at the end of the
reception at this year's ski race, there was Ruthie still
there after a full day and truly thrilled. She made sure the Ruthie
Antonides award and her service over 21 years of the Wednesday's
Child ski race were included in her personally approved obituary.
Marci and I have known Ruthie for 30 years. We laughed with her,
ate dinner together, talked golf and hiking and spent considerable
time together just talking. Our favorite meeting ground was her
office, where always I was made to feel very welcome. She would
let me use her computer for our letters and ski race business.
She let me keep my skis and boots and poles in her office (her
suggestion, by the way). Every year she would call me and tell
me she had my skis tuned and ready, so I should come up and go
The day of my ski race on March 12th, Ruthie suddenly looked
very serious, paused and then said: "Jack, I don't want you
to take this in the wrong way, but I want you to take your skis
and boots with you this weekend." She continued: "I
don't know what's going to happen to me, and I worry that your
skis could be lost." I told my wife later, that I couldn't
believe with what she was facing that she was worried about me
and my skis. I wouldn't have been that unselfish or brave if I
had been in her position.
A couple of quotations from some of my heroes apply to our friend
Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best that
I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought
a flower would grow.
Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving
Countless times I remember Ruthie urging me after we had visited
for a while, to get up on the mountain and don't waste those first
tracks. "There's some great skiing Jack-don't miss it."
I think about that admonition often these days. Life goes by much
too fast, for all of us. Ruthie knew that. She encouraged all
of us to take advantage of the day. There's fun to be had-don't