Hampton's Renaissance Woman

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By Michael Bisceglia Jr.

Hampton Union, Friday, April 25, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Ruth Geneve Stimson
November 17, 1919 - July 14, 2004

[Photograph not in original article.]

Her accomplishments were many and varied.

Truly, there was little that she couldn't do, but she didn't back down from the challenge of learning, applying, and teaching new skills. It might be said that Ruth G. Stimson was never one to be bored, not with so much to do and so little time to do it.

As a little girl in Dover, Ruth was never far from a hammer or a saw. In fact, one of her first projects was a backyard fire engine. Her enthusiasm didn't stop there. After receiving degrees in home economics from the University of New Hampshire, Ruth took a temporary position as an extension home economist for Rockingham County. That temporary position lasted 40 years.

She truly lived by her motto, "Learn by doing." She was constantly learning techniques she could pass on, and bookcases were laden with books on any number of life-enhancing skills. By the way, she built the bookcases with a coping saw.

Stimson was proud of her state, and equally proud of her garden. Hampton Garden Club members recalled visiting Ruth and her garden one summer evening and finding in the back yard a large formation of ivy in the shape of New Hampshire. Several of the women were wondering about a single, small, unusual shrub right in the center. One of the women asked, "What is that, Ruth?" She simply answered with her strong, Yankee inflection, "Concord."

Ruth could find practical uses for the most mundane articles. She faced the challenge of "mud season" work in her yard with bread wrappers covering her shoes. With a wry smile, she would say, "They keep the mud off my shoes and off my floor."

Ruth took great pride in all that she did. From more than 125 paintings and sketches to her slide presentations on various aspects of life in the Granite State, and from her leadership role in both Girl Scouts and 4-H to her work with the Lane Memorial Library, Hampton Garden Club, Seacoast Visiting Nurse Association, and Salt Marsh Conservation committees, Ruth was both involved and in demand.

"There was nothing that woman couldn't do," former town selectman Cliff Pratt said about Ruth. "As a boy, my family somehow acquired a small herd of sheep and had no idea how to shear them. We called the County Extension Service, and later that day, Ruth appeared at our door with her electric shearers in her hand. We thought she was going to show us how to shear one, but before we knew it all 30 were done. She was amazing."

Not only was Ruth a well-recognized seamstress, but well into her 80s, she continued to work her magic with a hammer and saw, building a shed for her garden tools.

Ruth received recognition not only at the local and state levels, but also at the national level. Her work in the area of recycling continues to be a model for the nation.

As a skilled craftswoman, Ruth developed a comprehensive resource book titled, "Christmas Throughout the World." In addition, she designed a series of postcards featuring New Hampshire themes. She was a founder of the Rockingham Craftsmen.

Ruth could very well have invented the phrase "multi-tasking." Once, when on her way to address a gathering, she was asked to pick up a few women. When the ladies were sliding into the back seat, they noticed a small, silent, elderly, woman sitting in the passenger seat next to Ruth. After a few moments of driving, Ruth said dryly, "That's mother. She's 102."

Ruth is lovingly remembered by Hampton residents and visitors at two locations. One is located on the coast. A large, brown wooden sign with carved white letters was recently discovered bearing the name, "Ruth Stimson Seashore Park." The sign was put up in the 1960s, but was taken down by a fierce winter storm. At the 2001 rededication of the park, a proper bronze plaque honoring Ruth was attached to a large boulder.

The second location is a small grassy garden in a park at Five Corners. A commemorative sign was placed among the grasses. It bears a simple message:

"In memory of Ruth Stimson, educator, gardener, conservationist."

'The years teach much which the days never know.'

(Special thanks to Marilyn Wallingford, Cliff Pratt, Betty Moore and the folks at the Lane Memorial Library.)

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