Ruth Schaefer was a retired Baltimore County Public Library staff member, longtime activist with the Assistance Center of Towson Churches and a prolific photographer.
Ruth Schaefer was a retired Baltimore County Public Library staff member, longtime activist with the Assistance Center of Towson Churches and a prolific photographer. (Handout)

Ruth Christine Schaefer, a retired Baltimore County Public Library staff member, amateur photographer and volunteer for the homeless, died Sept. 19 at her Timonium home of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was 85.

Born in New Britain, Conn., she was the daughter of Russell L. Potter, who worked in retail sales, and his wife Christine, a homemaker.


Raised in New England and Towson, she was a 1951 graduate of Towson High School, where she met her future husband, Ronald Schaefer, in physics class.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in English at Goucher College. She later received a master’s degree at Loyola University Maryland.

She briefly worked at WFBR radio and the old WAAM-TV, and also in the office of the Baltimore County executive, before joining the Baltimore County Public Library System. Beginning in 1981, she joined the library’s marketing and development department

“She worked for 29 years and she photographed special events, programs and functions, wrote press releases and created the library’s calendar of events,” said her daughter, Debra J. Russell of Victor, N.Y.

“She was also a copy editor and designed a street card — a pocket-sized card with a listing of resources and phone numbers for the homeless,” her daughter said. The street card remains in use by Towson area assistance agencies.

Mrs. Schaefer was a stickler for proper grammar and language usage.

“She was known for her editing skills, her eagle eye and a red corrections pen,” said her daughter. “If anyone challenged her edits or style preferences she would just search through her trove of style books until she found a rule that would support her opinion, which she always held firm.”

Mrs. Schaefer was an active volunteer at the Assistance Center of Towson Churches, located in a building on the grounds of Calvary Baptist Church. Mrs. Schaefer interviewed and assisted persons in need. She also worked for the center as its photographer, website manager and video producer, among others tasks.

“I called Ruth my secret weapon,” said Linda Lotz, the assistance director. “She was sharp, fun and delightful. She also stood up for what was right.”

Her daughter said Mrs. Schaefer was rarely seen without a camera — either in hand or hanging around her neck.

“My mother began pursuing photography in earnest in the 1970s when she set up a darkroom in the basement in order to develop black-and-white photos. She was able to incorporate her love of photography into her career when she began working at the library.”

Beginning in 2010, Mrs. Schaefer entered The Baltimore Sun’s Readers Sunshots contest and was a prolific weekly contributor.

“She was disappointed when she had to break her eight-year streak of submitting at least one photo every week due to an illness,” her daughter said. “Over the years she won first place 17 times and honorable mention 21 times. … It was a wonderful outlet for her talent, her keen, artistic eye, and her creative spirit and imagination.”

She had a home library and amassed a collection of cookbooks, grammar and editing books, and photo magazines, and had assembled a number of the “Learning for Dummies” volumes. She attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts and was a Center Stage subscriber. She had wide musical tastes and enjoyed trips to Maine, Bethany Beach, Del., the Conowingo Dam — where she photographed eagles — Loch Raven Reservoir, the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Delaware Bay.


“My mother was full of life with an adventurous spirit and always seeking out fun things to do. She had a great sense of humor, explosive laughter and a big, full warm smile

At holidays Mrs. Schaefer displayed animated toys — dancing pink flamingos, talking Christmas trees, singing goats, squawking turkeys.

“When someone arrived at the house, she would run around turning on all the toys so they would be treated to the full cacophony of song, motion and noise as soon as they walked through the door,” her daughter said. “She had a child-like sense of fun.”

“She often said the perfect end to a day in mid-coast Maine would include eating a lobster and a slice of blueberry pie on the wharf at Miller’s Lobster in Spruce Head,” her daughter said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 at Peaceful Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Center, 2325 York Road in Timonium.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Schaefer is survived by a son, Mark A. Schaefer of Cockeysville; a sister, Helen Jones of Towson; and two grandchildren. Her husband of 54 years, a Northrop Grumman contracts manager, died in 2011. A son, Douglas J. Schaefer, died in 1999.

Arlene B. Cooper, a retired eligibilty supervisor for the state Department of Social Services, died Sept. 17 from a heart attack at Sinai Hospital. The longtime resident of Northwest Baltimore was 77.