Sylvia J. “Dee” Ruppenthal, a retired registered nurse who was active in Glyndon community affairs, died Oct. 16 at Mount Pleasant Hospice at Sinai Hospital of complications from a stroke. She was 83.
“She was very warm and outgoing, but I’d also say she was a very dignified woman who was always concerned about others,” said the Rev. Amy Williams Clark of Burtonsville, pastor of Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalist Church in Finksburg. “We always had deep conversations about her concerns.”
The former Sylvia Jean Zickuhr, the daughter of Ralph Zickuhr, a pharmacist and mayor of Mount Morris, Illinois, and his wife, Alice Zickuhr, who worked in the pharmacy with her husband, was born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in Mount Morris.
“My grandmother ran the drugstore lunch counter where you could get a Made Right and a Cherry Coke, as well as food,” said Mrs. Ruppenthal’s son, Hans M. Ruppenthal of Reisterstown.
Ms. Ruppenthal, who was known as “Dee,” was a graduate of Mount Morris High School, where she excelled in Latin and was state Latin champion.
During her college years in the 1950s, she traveled throughout Europe and was fluent in German.
“She hitchhiked through Europe — which was unheard of in her day and traveled with and met new friends throughout Europe — many she kept in touch with well into her later years,” Carmita “Mita” Vogel, her daughter-in-law, of Reisterstown, wrote in a biographical profile of her mother-in-law.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1959 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Mrs. Ruppenthal began her nursing career doing home deliveries in some of the poorest Chicago neighborhoods, Ms. Vogel wrote.
“A doctor my mother worked with delivered me at home on the kitchen table. They had friends over and some cold beer and made it into an event,” her son said.
She met her future husband, Hans E. Ruppenthal, a professional chef, returning from one of her European sojourns, and married him in 1962.
The couple moved to Baltimore in 1966 when her husband was named chef at Cy Bloom’s Place in the Alley, which was on East Baltimore Street in downtown Baltimore. He later was the executive chef at the old Chestnut Ridge Country Club in Lutherville and for Harry M. Stevens Inc., which provided food at Maryland’s thoroughbred racetracks.
Ms. Ruppenthal was a nurse at Hill Crest Clinic in Catonsville and later a psychiatric nurse at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. Until retiring in 2008, she did outpatient nursing.
An ardent supporter of Democratic politics and women’s issues, she was an active member of the League of Women Voters and Planned Parenthood, and was also a Glyndon census worker.
A resident since 1972 of Glyndon, where she lived in a home on Central Avenue, Ms. Ruppenthal supported the work of and was a member of Historic Glyndon Inc.
“She was on what we call the HGI [Historic Glyndon Inc.] board for years and had wonderful ideas,” said Pamela J. Becker, a Glyndon resident and the current president of the organization. “Dee was very passionate about preserving Glyndon’s history and ambiance and loved being part of that. She loved walking through the community and chatting with people.”
She was an active member of Cedarhurst Unitarian Church and played a key role in its move to a permanent home on Club House Road in Finksburg.
“Dee was one of our founding members in 1985 and was active in all parts of our community. She was active in social justice and voters’ rights and as a member of our Care Team helped provide care to other members. She was somebody who was always there," Ms. Clark said.
“She had served on our board at one time. She was a greeter, and as a musician, we were blessed for her to play for us,” Ms. Clark said. “She was also our church historian and helped keep our history in order.”
An accomplished and “interesting cook,” as Ms. Vogel described her, Ms. Ruppenthal was especially known for her almond crescents, which led her brother to hide them from family members last Christmas.
Ms. Ruppenthal, who always dressed in her special Christmas sweater, would bring her almond crescents to the historical society’s annual Christmas open house, where they were much enjoyed.
In addition to her work with the historical society, Ms. Ruppenthal was our “official greeter and welcoming committee,” Ms. Becker said.
“When new neighbors moved in, she’d go and greet them and sit down and tell them all about the neighborhood, where to shop, and that you had to go to the post office and pick up your mail,” she said.
Ms. Becker described her as being “friendly, always smiling, and incredibly intelligent.”
“And because she had been a nurse, she was interested in their mental health,” she said. “Dee was a wonderful, wonderful person, and the neighborhood is just devastated because of her death.”
She maintained a deep interest in Abraham Lincoln, loved stray cats, was an inveterate lifelong Chicago Cubs fan and enjoyed playing the piano.
“Dee was a fiercely independent woman who was a very vocal political activist, feminist and historian,” Ms. Vogel wrote. "She was keen on politicians with great minds but vocally not a fan of the current situation in Washington."
Plans for a celebration of life gathering are incomplete.
In addition to her son and daughter-in-law, Ms. Ruppenthal is survived by her daughter, Katherine “Katie” Hiestand of Hanover, Pennsylvania; a brother, Richard “Dick” Zickuhr of Boise, Idaho; and three grandchildren.