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photo: Ruthie Antonides with Jack at the 2004 Ski For Wednesday's Child
  Ruthie Antonides with Jack at the 2004 Ski For Wednesday's Child, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  

GOODBYE RUTHIE

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 her.

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," she replied.

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 skiing.

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 Ruthie:

Abraham Lincoln:
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.
Aristotle:
Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.


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 miss it.

Tom Corcoran's tribute

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