Ruth (Ruthie) Newman | Obituary

Ruth (Ruthie) Newman died on 4/25/2021 in Sunnyvale, CA after liv- ing with Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Ruthie was born on 1/30/1933 in Berkeley, CA to Ida Margoles Oser and Jacob Oser. She spent most of her adult life on Mercer Island, WA, re- tiring to Orcas Island, WA. Ruthie is survived by her son Keith; her grandchildren, Rachel, Gil, Eli, Sophi, and Barrett; and her great-grandchildren, Maisie, Donato, Emilio, and Jaime. She is predeceased by her husband Dirk and daughter Robin.

In Ruthie’s first years, economic and sociopolitical forces saw her family move from Berkeley to Milwaukee, WI and then to the So- viet Union in 1935. After the family came under threat of Stalin’s “Great Purge,” the Osers took refuge in Tel Aviv with Ruthie’s paternal grandparents. From there, they returned to Berkeley in 1938.

Growing up in Berkeley, Ruthie attended Garfield Junior High, where she met her future husband Dirk Newman. The two began dating while attending Berkeley High together and married in 1954 upon Dirk’s graduation from UC Berkeley. In 1955, she finished her Bachelor of Arts degree at Reed College in Portland, OR. Ruthie was a highly engaged Reed alumna, and the intellectual foundation she established at Reed set the course for her work as a teacher and her enthusiasm for art, music, philosophy, poetry, and literature.

Following her college graduation, Ruthie moved to Seattle to join Dirk, who had been hired as an engineer at Boeing. They soon moved to “Glenhome,” an early neighborhood on Mercer Island, and started their family of 2 children. Ruthie followed her passion for art, becoming a volunteer docent at the Seattle Art Museum and taking ceramic classes at UW, the Archie Bray Foundation, and Pottery Northwest under influential instructors such as Robert Sperry, Ken Ferguson, and Dave Shaner.

In 1966, Ruthie began teaching at Issaquah High School, followed by employment in 1968 at Mercer Island High School that lasted until her retirement in 2002. She taught English, art, photography, ceramics, and an integrated humanities class (a half-day block, spawning the proud term “Block Heads”) that combined history, literature, art, and philosophy. Ruthie co-taught “Block” with Milt Yanicks, and then Chip Wall, which afforded her a unique and beloved opportunity to team-teach.

Throughout Ruthie’s life, many past students re-connected with her, creating new friendships rooted in the profound impact her teaching and passion for learning had left on them. The lifelong friendships she shared with these former students brought Ruthie great pride and joy.

In addition to long days teaching, grading, reading, researching, and preparing lectures, Ruthie also carved out time for her ceramic pottery and sculptures. For 50 years, she explored many creative themes and ceramic art forms in her private ceramics studio, built for her by her husband Dirk.

During summers, Ruthie took every chance to travel – she loved to explore the world and create first-hand photos for her art history lectures, visiting dozens of countries during her lifetime. Ruthie often travelled with students and former students, leading marathon-paced itineraries.

Upon retirement, Ruthie relocated to Orcas Island to be close to her dearest friend Andrea Hendrick and to revel in the beauty of the island, joining a wonderful community of new friends and kindred intellectual spirits. She delighted in attending her book club, enjoying the Orcas Chamber Music Festival every summer, and hosting visitors at her oceanfront home.

In 2017, Ruthie moved back to the Bay Area where her surviving child Keith and his loving family could better attend to her needs, also allowing her to enjoy time with her great-grandchildren. She spent the last years of her life painting, laughing, reading, and chatting on the phone with the many friends she loved. She passed away peacefully, with family by her side.

A memorial service will be held in Seattle at a later date when travel is more readily available. An online memorial site is available at: