Ruth A. Perry, 96, a lifelong Chicagoan who played an active role in Catholic organizations and charities, died on Jan. 4, 2013 at her home in River Forest of natural causes, according to her family.
Perry helped support her parents through the Great Depression and went on to raise five daughters, becoming a regular volunteer at their school and church. A spunky woman committed to public service, she brought meals to the elderly while in her 80s.
"She and my dad delivered meals-on-wheels at a time when her daughters thought maybe it was time for them to be receiving the meals, not delivering them," Perry's youngest daughter, Charlotte, said at a memorial service.
Born on July 3, 1916, Ruth Anne Vanderhulst grew up a child of the Depression on the city's West Side. She left high school after two years in search of work to bolster her family's income.
She found work at Liquid Carbonic, which made soda fountains and worked there for more than 10 years. Beginning as a clerk, she was later promoted to stenographer. Fond of writing, she often dashed off letters to friends serving in World War II, including William Perry. A few years after he returned from overseas, they married.
They wanted a big family, but she feared that a nagging speech impediment would prevent her from reading to their children. With her husband's support, the impediment faded.
She called raising their five children her "greatest calling." Perry's family and friends recall her knack for cooking and piano playing, including as a member of Liquid Carbonic's orchestra.
Outside home and work, she was devoted to the Catholic Church, volunteering as a communion minister and handling publicity for her local chapter of the Catholic Women's Club, an organization that, among other things, hosted fundraisers for low-income Chicagoans. She also volunteered with an adult education program and visited sick members of her parish.
She and her husband moved to River Forest in 2008 to live with their daughter, Kathleen. He died in March 2009 after more than 60 years of marriage.
Perry is survived by her daughters, Mary (Ken Bates), Kathleen, Margaret (William) Bradley, Joan (David) Protess and Charlotte; and her grandchildren, Mary Denise, William, Kathryn, Sarah, Andrea, Michael, Ben (Amanda) and Kenny.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 12 at Divine Providence Church in Westchester.