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Ruth B. Thompson, federal worker, dies at 103

Ruth Baird Thompson died of natural causes at age 103 at her daughter's home in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Dec. 16, 2014.
Ruth Baird Thompson died of natural causes at age 103 at her daughter's home in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Dec. 16, 2014. (Baltimore Sun)

Ruth B. Thompson, a retired Veterans Administration personnel executive and World War II veteran, died Tuesday at her daughter's home in Chapel Hill, N.C., in her sleep of undetermined causes.

She was 103.

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The daughter of George Curtis Baird, an insurance underwriter, and Beulah Dance Baird, an educator, the former Ruth Baird was born on the family farm on Dance Mill Road in Long Green Valley, and lived briefly in downtown Baltimore, before moving with her family in 1921 to Towson.

After graduating in 1928 from Towson High School, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1931 from Goucher College. She later earned a master's degree from Wellesley College.

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Mrs. Thompson was a physical education instructor at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., when she was recruited in 1942 to join the Navy's Women Accepted for Volunteer Service — better known as the WAVES — that was established that year.

Mrs. Thompson worked directly with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in designing recruitment programs, training, pay scales, uniforms and growth projections for the WAVES.

She was discharged at war's end.

During World War II, she met and fell in love with William D. "Rusty" Thompson, a Navy commander, whom she married in 1948.

The couple lived for 45 years in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington. After her husband, a career Naval officer, retired from the Navy, he was superintendent of recreation for Fairfax County, Va., and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He died in 1998.

After raising her family, in the early 1960s, Mrs. Thompson returned to work when she joined the Veterans Administration as a national placement personnel executive. She retired in 1972.

Mrs. Thompson who in recent years lived with her daughter, was a longtime communicant of the Washington National Cathedral.

She was also a founding member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Plans for graveside services for Mrs. Thompson, which will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, are incomplete.

Mrs. Thompson is survived by her son, Baird Thompson of Miami; a daughter, Kirstin Thompson of Chapel Hill, N.C.; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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