December 23, 2009


Marathon loses teacher, maternal figure Ruth Reed

Her century of life spanned more than 40 years as an English teacher at Marathon school

ReedBob Ellis/staff photographer
Ruth Reed pictured in a 2007 file photo. The longtime Marathon resident and teacher died Dec. 16 at the age of 102.

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Ruth Reed’s friends and former students remember her as an effective school teacher, a baker, a gardener, a skilled card player and a party host.
The Marathon resident died Dec. 16 at age 102.
Friends visited Reed’s family in Marathon Presbyterian Church Monday, and the gathering was followed by an Eastern Star Service that evening. Her funeral service was held at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“I think people saw her definitely as a mother figure and their teacher, so lots and lots of respect was always given to her whenever she came out into the community,” said Connie White, who was in Reed’s eighth-grade English class and later lived across the street from her on Mara Lane.
“One of the things I admired was Ruth didn’t gossip. You couldn’t get her hardly to say anything bad about anybody,” White said. “She wanted to be everybody’s friend.”
Reed was born in 1907 and raised in Smithville Flats in Chenango County.
She went to Cortland Normal School and then Cornell University, where she earned a teaching degree. She later attended Cortland College, which had previously been called Cortland Normal School, to take additional classes.
She taught school in Endicott before moving to Marathon in 1946 to teach. As a sixth-grade teacher and an eighth-grade English teacher, Reed taught at the Marathon school for more than 40 years.
Marathon residents trickled into Marathon Presbyterian Church Monday and reminisced about Reed as they stopped to look at two collages that showed black and white photographs of her as a young schoolteacher and recent photographs of Reed with her friends and family.
“I think anyone who was younger than 92 (in Marathon) had Ruth in the sixth grade,” said Jack Wainwright, a former student in Reed’s sixth-grade class. “She was a very good school teacher who was very in-charge.”
Arthur Ensign, 84, a former bus driver who took Reed’s students on field trips, became close with her later in life. His wife and he stayed with her in Florida during different winters.
He said Reed loved playing cards and was very impressive when playing her favorite game, pitch.
“If you beat her, you ought to be on the wall,” Ensign said.
Many of Reed’s students reconnected with her as adults and became some of her closest friends. White said she began calling her Ruth when she became her neighbor, but to many Marathon residents, she would always be Mrs. Reed.
Reed had a passion for cooking and serving people, as well as gardening.
In the later years of her life, she could no longer do these tasks, but caregivers helped her so that she could still have food to serve guests and have flowers in her garden, White said.
Reed’s home helpers, Catherine Perfitt and Catherine Maricle, would bake for her so she could always have cookies, pie, cake and candy to give to everyone who visited her house, White said.
Still, Reed would try to be the party host she was accustomed to being, and visitors would have to insist that she did not get up to serve them.
“She would try to get up out of her chair and wait on you,” White said.
Reed was very outgoing, and always wanted to be with friends, even as she lost her sight and her hearing faded, White said.
“She just loved to go down to the school and be around people. Even though she couldn’t see or hear the play she just loved being in the audience,” White said.
While she was teaching, Reed lived on a farm with her husband, Charles Reed, a dairy farmer. They sold the land, where Maple Hills Golf Course is now located, and they moved to a house on Mara Lane and began going to Florida every winter, White said.
Reed found a new hobby in making jewelry and crafts from sea shells and sharks’ teeth that she found on Florida beaches.
As Reed grew older, her neighbors on Mara Lane visited her frequently and helped her with daily tasks, White said. White’s husband, Town Supervisor Charles Adams, volunteered to pick up her mail and brought it to her house for years.
The assistance of friends enabled Reed to live alone, which strengthened Reed’s appreciation for the community of Marathon, White said.
“She just loved her home and was grateful to God that she could live there,” White said.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe