June 13, 1920 – February 21, 2021
Ruth was born on a farm near Frankfort, Kansas, on June 13th, 1920. She grew up in a family of two sisters and 4 brothers. She was 17 years old when the “Dust Bowl” hit the plains and forced the family to sell the farm. They loaded up their truck with all of their belongings and headed west, first to California, where they worked the fields picking beets, cherries, and hops, and then apricots in Oregon, where they eventually settled.
After graduating from Woodburn High School in 1938, Ruth went to Portland to participate in a New Deal government program offering young women the chance to learn marketable skills, a dormitory in which to live, and help in job placements. She taught volleyball for a few months at a recreation center before being recommended for a position as a live-in nanny and housekeeper for a family with two young girls.
At age 20, she moved to Portland, living in the Washington Hotel, becoming the first woman bellhop of the city.
“They couldn’t get any boys, because of the war,” she recalled. “They were looking for boys, and I said, ‘I can do it.’ It was a fun job.” A year later, she moved to Seattle to work at Boeing’s Protection Plant Department, fingerprinting for the FBI and processing photo badges for the next 10 years. Occasionally, she was also asked to be a photo model for some of Boeing’s advertising and promotional pieces.
Al entered her life in 1946, when she lived in an apartment above the West Seattle grocery store he started with his twin brother. It was the IGA store located in N. Admiral, “Ray & Al’s Fine Foods.” They remained as West Seattleites for years and are survived by four children, 5 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Ruth found life-long friends at her church, Seattle First United Methodist Church, and remained a member for 74 years; she was the Wedding Hostess/Food Service Director. She orchestrated many large weekly dinners and coordinated over 500 weddings. She also directed the food services at Camp Indianola and later served on its Site Council Board.
She volunteered for many organizations, including Children’s Orthopedic Hospital, Chief Seattle Scouting Council, and Seattle’s Juvenile Court Diversion Program, counseling many young struggling teens. She also was a champion of voting rights and continually advocated for our civic duty. She said, “It’s a privilege to be in this country and be able to vote. So many people aren’t registered that really should be.”
She will be remembered for her smile, sense of style, and love of color – especially turquoise.
Share memories on the tribute wall located above.
Arrangements Entrusted to Emmick Family Funeral Home of West Seattle
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ruth Isabel DeGabriele, please visit our floral store.