Ruby E. Williams, a retired kindergarten and first grade teacher active in Govans community organizations, died of heart failure May 30 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. She was 86.
Born Ruby Eliza Ford in Norfolk, Va., Mrs. Williams was the daughter of Percy Ford, who worked at the Sheraton Belvedere Hotel, and his wife, Ruby Jackson, a teacher and nurse. She grew up on North Mount Street in West Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. She attended Booker T. Washington Junior High School and was a charter member of its National Junior Honor Society. She was a 1949 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from then-Coppin State College and a master’s degree at then-Towson State University and continued graduate studies at then-Loyola College and Johns Hopkins University.
Her daughter, Kathryn Williams, said her mother spent her summers at her family’s country place in Surry County, Va.
“Here she was, a city girl, spending her time with the creeks and the woods. She loved it,” her daughter said.
She met her future husband, Ellsworth Williams, in the early 1950s. He was attending a family funeral in West Baltimore on a warm day and needed a fan. He walked to her home, unannounced, and asked whether she could assist. She initially hesitated and found a mere cardboard fan from a church and was ready to give it to him when her mother intervened and told her to lend the caller the family electric fan.
“My father was undeterred. He saw a beautiful young lady and returned to visit,” her daughter said. “They married on June 14, 1955, and were inseparable.”
In 1957 she and her husband settled in the Govans neighborhood on Radnor Avenue where they raised their two children, Her daughter said the house was constantly busy — Cub Scouts den meetings, piano and violin lessons, and coffee hours with local politicians.
Her husband, a claims adjuster with the Postal Service, was a trained singer who enjoyed Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. A tenor, he sang along while Mrs. Williams recounted the opera’s plot. It was a weekend ritual for the couple.
She began teaching in 1961. She taught pre-K, kindergarten and first grade at what is now the Robert W. Coleman School in Walbrook, Morrell Park, Highlandtown and Brooklyn elementary schools. She retired in 1991.
While teaching, Mrs. Williams volunteered with the American Red Cross and also volunteered with St. Mary’s Health Ministry, where she chaired church blood drives for 12 years. She also was an active member of the Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. and served on one of its projects, Epiphany House. She was also active in the Friends of Govans Library.
“My mother extended her love of teaching into her retirement and led adult literacy classes at Govans and Waverly branches of the Enoch Pratt Library and tutored children in the Dyslexia Tutoring Program,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Williams collected recipes from magazines and newspapers and used them to create her family’s meals. She also kept a garden and liked having flowers in her home that she had raised and arranged.
She read widely and was a member of St. Mary’s Bible Study Group, Govans Book Discussion Group and the Enoch Pratt Volunteer Council. She was a traveler, played bridge and liked to attend the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage and Toby’s Dinner Theatre.
“She went to New York occasionally, but she liked to take advantage of what Baltimore had to offer,” her daughter said.
She was a benefactor of the St. Ignatius Loyola Academy on Gittings Street, where a memorial fund has been created in her name.
A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. today at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5502 York Road, where she was a member.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include her sister, Gloria F. Logan of Washington, D.C.; and nieces and nephews. Her husband of 62 years died in 2018. A son, Michael Williams, died in 2003.