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Ruth W. (Johnstone) Wales

December 25, 1927 ~ December 2, 2018 (age 90)
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Thoughts about Ruth Johnstone Wales to share and remember

Ruth J. Wales, Christian Science Monitor page 1 editor and long-time Lincoln, MA Historical District Commission chairperson, passed away shortly before her 91st birthday, on December 2, 2018 in Belmont, Massachusetts, with two of her daughters by her side.

Ruth Johnstone Wales was a purposeful planner, meticulous and particular, for whom making contributions to society was extremely important. She was independent and encouraged independence in her children.  She had high expectations for herself and others but was extremely supportive to family and friends.  She was politically liberal, but personally conservative – frugal and self-sacrificing, while remaining generous to those she loved. 

Ruth, the daughter of Frederika Ammarell Johnstone and Robert Montgomery Johnstone, was born in Hollis, Queens in New York City on Christmas Day, December 25, 1927. Her father was a businessman and her mother was an artist. Raised in Christian Science, Ruth remained faithful to her beliefs as a long-time member of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Concord MA.

After graduating from high school, Ruth won a scholarship to University of Chicago where she received her bachelor’s degree, reflecting a lifelong love of learning continuing through graduate school at Northeastern University, where she received her master’s degree in Education and, after her working career was over, as an avid participant in the Harvard University Institute for Learning in Retirement.

Ruth met R. Langdon Wales while working at the Christian Science Monitor in Boston after college and married him in Hollis, NY, on September 9, 1951. They enjoyed a loving relationship that produced four children: Roland, Rebecca and twins, Amy and Rachel.  Langdon was a mechanical engineer and inventor and his work took them to Reading, Massachusetts, then briefly to East Aurora, New York, before settling in Lincoln, Massachusetts where they built their dream home – a mid-century modern house designed by architects Hoover & Hill on 2 acres in the Brown’s Wood neighborhood.  Amy and Rachel were born there shortly after the family moved in, in 1959.  For fifty-seven years Ruth continued living at 18 Moccasin Hill, nestled in the woods above Valley Pond, where she loved to swim, in the home in which she and Lang had raised their family.

Ruth’s work life took hold after her younger daughters entered school and she taught grade school at nearby Hanscom Air Force Base.  She then became a technical editor for Mitre Corporation, making use of her love of words and attention to detail.  From there she returned to the Christian Science Monitor as an editor, working her way up to editing the front page of the daily newspaper and later, as editor of the International Edition. Ruth considered her time at the Monitor to be her dream job and found it enormously exciting and fulfilling.  She continued working there until 2001, retiring at age 74.

Ruth and Lang maintained an active social life, taking up Scottish Country Dancing with the Concord group which held weekly dances, a New Year’s Eve Hogmanay, regional balls in full regalia, and weekend dancing retreats in New Hampshire – and even world travel with Scottish Dancing Tours. 

They took their young family on outdoor adventures, frequently canoeing, camping and hiking – climbing a majority of the peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. As the children grew up and left the nest, Ruth began to travel internationally with Lang, which she loved.  Taking advantage of Lang’s work in Italy, they also traveled to Germany, Russia, Sweden, England, and Scotland, and to southern Africa to visit their daughter in the Peace Corps. 

Both made contributions to their community, with Lang active on the Planning Commission and Ruth active with The Lincoln League of Women Voters and representing Lincoln on the  Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School committee. Long after her term ended, she referred to “my school” and enjoyed taking her visitors on a tour.

Both Ruth and Lang enjoyed early music and Ruth learned to play the harpsichord that Lang was building in their Lincoln home, which was finished by Peter Watchhorn after his death. Her time with Lang was cut short in 1989 when he died unexpectedly at age 62.  She continued on, working at the Monitor and following her interests with friends and family. She purchased a small condo in the Fenway area of Boston to be closer to the Monitor. An avid appreciator of the arts, Ruth enjoyed listening to classical music at the nearby Boston Symphony and the Boston Ballet and going to numerous theater performances with a friend or family member, as she had previously done with Lang.  In retirement, she frequently used her condo as a home base during the week while attending classes at Harvard.

She continued to travel, throughout the US, visiting her college roommate, Sally Raisbeck in Hawaii, and on tours with groups to England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand and with her daughter Rebecca to Kenya, Tanzania, Belize, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

An avid reader, Ruth favored classics, murder mysteries, female authors, biographies, and local history and encouraged all family members to attend college, assisting nearly all of her grandchildren, in addition to her own children, to receive a bachelor’s degree or greater.

She enhanced the native plants in her landscape and loved the woods of Lincoln. She frequently visited Lincoln Conservation lands as well as Great Meadows in Concord for walks and wildlife.  In addition to her swims at Valley Pond, she loved to eat outdoors in her screen house, rain or shine, temperature permitting.

Ruth with her good friend Lucretia Giese and others were passionate preservers of architectural heritage on the Lincoln Historical District and Lincoln Historical Commissions.  She and Lang were founding members and advocates for Brown’s Wood preservation, houses, and history.  Her commitment extended to carefully maintaining their home on Moccasin Hill and preserving its original design features with the help of artisan, woodworker, and carpenter Norman Levey, who ran his business out of Lang’s large garage shop for decades.

Ruth’s artistic talents included painting, hooked rugs, sewing, calligraphy, silk screening, and sketch-booking.  She was a collector of art produced by talented friends and acquaintances. An involuntary collector of owls that began with concrete "Howie," who “lived” outside and looked in through a window next to a door of the house, and was named for Howland Owl of Pogo fame, Ruth found herself identified as a lover of owls.  Howie inspired family and friends to search the world for owls to give her and her collection of owls, large and small, in a multitude of forms, numbered in the hundreds.

Ruth was passionate about family and made a "family genealogy book" for each of her children that includes many details about five main branches of the family. She and Lang had traveled to Scotland to learn more family history and later to Schwabendorf, Germany for the 300th anniversary for all descendants. She loved family "reunions" and encouraged children and their kids to gather every 5 years in a new special place: Cape Cod cabins, Sturbridge Village, Saddleback Maine cottages, Blue Heron Maple Sugar Farm and Stump Sprouts cross-country ski lodge in Western Mass, Maho Bay Camps on St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Wayside Inn in Sudbury, and, naturally, in Lincoln. Thanks to these family gatherings, her six grandchildren from three households are all close friends. A number of her children's friends and partners looked up to her as a sort of second mom, including Peg Rawson Shealy, Camila Akerlund, and Terri Young, and eagerly befriended adult friends of her children and learned about their lives and welcomed their children.

Ruth is survived by her son, Roland and his wife, Donna; daughter, Rebecca, and her partner, Chuck; daughter Amy; and daughter Rachel – and grandchildren Marissa (with husband Amit), Benjamin, Fenic, Carin, Christopher, and Robert.  Also surviving are Ruth’s nephews, children of brother Robert Johnstone and wife Peggy, now deceased – Doug, (with wife Karen, son Brian with his wife Dariana, and grandson Avery), and Richard, (with wife Kathy and children Danny and Sarah with her husband Scott, and children Cameron and Everett).

Ruth is also survived by lifelong friends, Phyllis Rappaport of Kalamazoo, MI, and Marie Tegeler of Hingham, MA, who first met because their three mothers were friendly. The three stayed in close touch over many years.

Donations may be made to Massachusetts Audubon:

A public memorial service will be held at Pierce House in Lincoln on January 26, 2019 at 1 pm.

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