Ruth Painter, reading tutor, volunteer, gardener, and outdoorswoman

Shelburne - Ruth Painter, 92, of Shelburne, formerly of Williston, died peacefully on April 11, 2020 following a long illness. She was born June 11,1927 in Northampton, MA to John and Ruth Ethel (Davison) Russell. Easthampton, MA was home until college days at UMass, after which she worked in Connecticut as Field Director for the Girl Scouts. There she met Herb Painter whom she married in 1950. They settled in Williston village in 1954 to raise their budding family. As a couple and separately they poured themselves into the civic life of Williston.

Ruth directed her boundless energy largely out into the world. She viewed her life work as fostering community, as cultivating connections among people. She gathered with others to plan and dream, be it for affordable housing, to design a new public garden, or to organize a women’s running race. She shared meals and her home with friends, extended family, students, and newcomers. She did not hesitate to board a bus headed for Washington, D.C. to witness for peace. Ruth spoke up and she spoke out, both at home and in the world.

Some of the organizations Ruth invested her passion in are Williston Historical Society, Williston Federated Church, Bill Koch League (then, Torger Tokle), The Williston Whistle newspaper as one of four women founders, UVM Extension Master Gardening program, Hunger Free Vermont, Habitat for Humanity, Dismas House, and Vermont Respite House.

She gathered with others for the fun of sport to play tennis doubles and to ski, bike, run, and hike with family, friends, and, in later years, the Women of UVM. When she could no longer ski in the Camel’s Hump Challenge Ruth showed up to serve hot drinks at the finish line. In her eighties, Ruth cleared x-c trails with the Old Goats and continued to dance with the English Country Dancing group.

Ruth participated in government, beginning with student government in college. She served on the Williston Democratic Committee and in the 1980s ran a close race for state rep. As Justice of the Peace, Ruth performed numerous civil union ceremonies in the early 2000s.

In the late 1960s, Ruth began a career as a reading tutor for dyslexic students, first at Pine Ridge School in Williston and then privately. She completed the Master of Education program at St. Michael’s College; she trained in and practiced the Orton-Gillingham method.

In gardening season, Ruth retreated to her flower beds. Arranging flowers for weddings, for the house, or for Wake Robin common areas brought her immense pleasure. She adhered to the adage that if you don’t have time to clean your house, arrange a bouquet of flowers for the table.

Ruth moved to the Wake Robin retirement community in 2008, which offered opportunities to make new friends and pursue old interests. In 2014, Linden Health Center's Juniper neighborhood became her home. Ruth's family wishes to thank the excellent staff there for providing such a caring, friendly, and respectful environment, one in which she was able to be herself. She continued to be a connector between individuals, to offer kindness and hospitality to those around her. She greatly appreciated every visitor and simple, warm interaction.

Family Information

Ruth was predeceased by her husband, Herb Painter; son, Jim Painter; granddaughter, Martina Painter; and her three sisters, Eleanor, Virginia, and Janice. She is survived by her children: Audrey (Lew) Coty of Stowe; Betsy Painter of Montpelier; Charlie Painter of Nome, Alaska; Kay Painter of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and also six grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.