Family attends Twyla's Barnard graduation

Also late, but congratulations are in order for the latest member of the family to pass through the gates of academe and step into the so-called real world. Twyla completed her undergraduate degree from Barnard College at Columbia University, the same institution (Columbia) where her grandfather Stanley was an undergrad and graduate student.

We had a big turnout of Rubys and Eilertsens to celebrate the occasion in New York City. Among Ruby kin, Danny, Joanne, Walter and Tanya, Gene, Janis Brenner and her husband Mitchell Bogart, and Sandy Brenner were on hand for some or all of the festivities. On the Eilertsen side, Kate and Allen, Ed, Judy, and Susie went all out to make the experience special, including at the several special celebratory meals. I was so sad that Stan and Helga could not be there that I broke up trying to say that in a toast at the first celebration dinner.

The graduation ceremony was plenty interesting, with featured speeches by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, David Remnick, Anna Quindlen, Judith Shapiro, and others. Billie Jean King was among those who received the Barnard Medal. Twyla walked with the Anthropology department as she was recognized for her double major in Anthropology and English.

At a couple of departmental receptions, Kate and I had the opportunity to meet two of the professors who advised Twyla's senior project—Ross Hamilton of the English department and Brian Larkin, the chairman of the Anthropology department. Both had lovely things to say about our graduate. Her thesis, "Made Visible: Scientific Constructivism Through the Lens of Hooke's Micrographia, received a 'A' grade from the two professors.

Graduation morning, there was a screwup because I failed to get word to Sandy on where we would meet. She came anyway—solo on the train with Mel in the hospital recovering from a knee operation—but we never managed to find each other. Janis was getting ready to leave for Asia that morning, and the last thing she needed was my frantic call looking for her mother. She ended up missing her flight while Mitchell worked the phones trying to track her down.

Turns out Sandy was there for the graduation ceremony and post reception. Then, not finding any of us, she sensibly went home, where she discovered everyone had been looking for her. My apologies for my part in the screwup. Thankfully, everything worked out okay and Joanne took the next day to visit with Sandy and help get Mel home from the hospital.

Walter's visit to Piedmont and Los Gatos

I am just completing a wonderful three days here with Dan, Jo, Bill, Lani, Twyla and Maxine and a large cast of League of Wmen's Voters members (I was about to write 'ladies', but the League has gone thoroughloy co-ed, so the president of the Southwest Santa Clara League is now a man). Jo and I spent Saturday with the Southwest Santa Clara League members at a retreat in which one member, Dale Hill, was awarded the Helga Ruby Outstanding Member award. This was the first year the award has been given, but it will be an annual affair. It was a moving occasion for Jo and I to see and hear from so many League members about what a critical role Helga played for them as a League activist, and in many cases, as mentor and friend. Sadly, I was all too often disinterested when Helga told me about her involvement in a succession of Leagues (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Gatos) over a period of decades, and only got interested on one of two occasions in her last year or two, when I suddenly realized that I have become very interested in grass roots politics covering it as a reporter, and here was my mother delving into it in great detail and full of passion for so many years--and I hadn't paid attention. But now I'm contemplating finding out my local League in New Jersey and getting involved. (note to readers: last summer Walter returned from Israel saying he had decided to make aliyah, so we'll believe this thing about joining the League when we see it).

Then Jo and I had a mellow afternoon in Los Gatos visiting Helga and Stan's close friends Suzanne and Jo and then to the trippy 'Halfway to Heaven' house of trippy Charlie Walton, filled with wired electronic contraptions, including an electric train montage that could lowered from the ceiling at the push of a button, and with majestic views over the Valley and surrounding mountains. We also went for a short hike on the mountainside that one gazed at from Stan and Helga's place on Overlook Drive. Altogether a deeply enjoyable 'return' to Los Gatos, which somehow has gone on with its unhurried existence without Stan and Helga.

The rest of my visit included a serious hike with Jo in that wonderful endless preserve in the hills overlooking Oakland; a visit to the cemetery, where we paid on the ground beside our parents gravestone and told stories about them; three terrific dinners, one in a Thai Restaurant and one superb meal each cooked by my gourmet siblings; Dan did a shish-kebab thing with the lamb perfectly cooked and suffused with all the right spices and Jo did a marvelous shrimp and rice dish. We had a lot to catch up on in terms of who is doing what--a lot of the story of Lani and Jo's all-but -certain move to Paris in September, where Lani will attend the International School, and Dan's recent trip into the heart of darkness of a red neck music festival down in the deserts of southern California. We made a 'dent' in going through boxes of photos and artificats of Stan and Helga, but honestly a rather small dent. There was a lot of nachas all around concerning the achievements and plans of Twyla, Gene, Zach and Lani.

So it was wonderful, relaxing, theraputic and a chance to come closer as a family both as we look back on our wonderful parents, but also as we look to the future.

Moving tribute

This is an e-mail I just send to Joanne after reading her wonderful tribute to Stan on his yahrzeit, but then I thought what the hell, I'll put it up on the family history blog as well. Catching a moment in time for posterity and all of that.


Just read your enormously moving tribute to Dad and broke into tears sitting in my hotel room in Jerusalem. You are so right that the view from their gravesite evokes Hodel's farm--thanks so much for the image. And thanks so much for your compassion and love for our parents and your ability to grieve for them in such a deep and profound way on behalf of all of us. Zeh mashehu dai chashuv, something deeply important that you are doing on a cosmic, existential level that is impacting the world far beyind what we can see and discern (as you can see Israel effects me in all osrts of unexpected ways.

You have warmest regards from the whole Sharon family. I got to visit Achikam's house and hang out with him and his lovely wife Gali and baby girl Netta. Dalit and Tal were there also. Spoke to Pnina, who is pressing Ahikam to travel with her to her birthplace in Belarus as well as Raya, who leaves this weel for a vacation with Amiram in northern Italy. Once homebound in Afeq, they have all turned into world travelers. Anyway, the one question that everyone asked of me (it was more of a demand than a question) was "WHEN IS JOANNE-EE COMING? MATAI HE TAVO? ANACHNU KOL KACH OHEVIM OTAH." So what can I say? You better get on a plane over here ASAP! Dan, the Israeli branch of the family would all love to see you as well.

OK, am on a deadline and must run. I put some of my writing on the Russian conference on rubyjewsday; now I have to write another piece on Lieberman (Avigdor, not Joe), whbich is due immieditely for Jewish Week.



October anniversaries

Gopal's letter and Dan's posting have moved me to add my thoughts. Just read pieces that I hadn’t seen before, and learned there’s yet another family member to add to the important October dates: Walter Ruby (my grandfather’s) birthday, Oct. 15. So that sits right between mine, the 11th and Helga’s, the 20th. And right in there we also have Stan’s death day, the 18th. And most years we get Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur thrown in there too (as we did this year).

Last week, on my birthday, I took my dear Carly to the cemetery. I gathered a few photos, our combined collection of seashells, and a journal. There at the Oakmont Cemetery in Lafayette, in the Jewish section, called “compassion” I do find true comfort. It does surprise me. Who would have known? It’s not just that it is so incredibly beautiful, being in the open hills and looking down on what I call “Hodel’s Farm” (reference to our backyard neighbor in Pittsburgh). It's that it all seems right; the decision of which plot/s, our carefully crafted words on the stone (“Stanley and Helga Ruby, generous spirits and forces of life, the important thing is to not stop questioning”); that you pass Green Valley Drive and Stanley Boulevards on your way; and that Carly is free to roam. So, it only seems fitting to post this photo of the site and their grave - our official unveiling on the blog.


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