Ruth Garbis

Ruth Garbis (July 25, 2011)

Ruth Garbis, a homemaker who enjoyed writing poetry, died July 18 of heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice. She was 91.

Born Ruth Rochkind in Baltimore, the daughter of a Russian immigrant father and Baltimore-born mother, she spent her early years on West North Avenue.

During the Depression, she moved with her family to Richmond, Va., and worked in her parents' grocery store and luncheonette.

It was while living in Richmond that Mrs. Garbis developed her lifelong commitment to civil rights, when she gave up her seat on a streetcar to an elderly African-American woman, engendering the wrath of the motorman.

"The streetcar operator admonished her for doing this kind gesture by stopping and making young Ruth get off the streetcar for breaking the law," said a daughter, Harriet Lynn of Baltimore.

While attending high school in Richmond, she eloped in 1937 and married Morris Garbis, a Baltimorean whom she had met at a party.

The couple moved to Baltimore, where Mrs. Garbis finished her high school education. During the 1940s, she sold shoes at Hutzler's department store on Howard Street, and during the 1970s was a saleswoman for Plymouth Wallcoverings and furnishings.

Her husband, who was in real estate sales, died in 1999.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mrs. Garbis was an aide, interviewer and transcriber for three Baltimore photographers, Linda G. Rich, Joan Clark Netherwood and Elinor B. Cahn.

Mrs. Garbis, who lived in Windsor Hills, Milford Mill and Ashburton, had volunteered for years at the old Rosewood Hospital Center and Linwood Children's Center, an Ellicott City school for autistic children.

A lover of libraries and museums, Mrs. Garbis was a volunteer docent at the now-closed Peale Museum and also volunteered at Pumpkin Theatre.

In 1985, she was voted Best Senior Citizen Poet of the Year for her poem, "I Love Baltimore," and was presented her award by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer in a ceremony that was held in the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium.

A world traveler, she also studied at the Renaissance Institute of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

In 2000, she moved to the Carlyle Apartments and for the past seven years lived at the Holland Manor assisted-living facility in Riderwood.

She had been a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

Also surviving are two sons, Stuart L. Garbis of Baltimore and Gerald Garbis of Grants Pass, Ore.; another daughter, Carla H. Garbis of Moraga, Calif.; and two grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com