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Etta Ruth Weigl



When Etta Ruth moved to Kendal at Oberlin October 15, 1993 from Webster, New York, it was like coming almost full circle back to Oberlin, where she had graduated from college in 1942.


After earning an MS from Columbia School of Journalism, Etta Ruth had a busy and varied career in writing, including a book of poems, Melt Water, which is a tribute to her parents and a beautifully sensitive way of helping others dealing with loss. Etta Ruth also became the editor of her own small press, Stereopticon. But she didn't stop there, and has since taught at Elderhostels (now Road Scholars), volunteered at the Listening Post in the Oberlin schools, and helped organize the library here at Kendal at Oberlin with Betty and Bob Weinstock – before there even was a library committee. Together they drafted rules for which books would be shelved, like not having any literary digest versions.


Etta Ruth was a member of the Organizing Council, the forerunner to KORA, and initiated the first autobiography collection before Kendal opened so residents could learn more about each other. She continued to manage and edit the resident directory for a while before turning it over to Art Steele, founding editor of The Kendalight. She still loves writing, reading, play readers, and bird-watching. Her kids even got together and bought her a beautiful stained glass image of birds on a wire that hangs at her patio door.  


When Etta Ruth first came to Kendal she helped organize the Intergenerational Exchange, was a member of the "Tappan Squares" dance group, and worked hard to make our great pool become a reality. They weren't able to add everything they had hoped for since they had to work within a budget, but she is very proud. The opening was wonderful – she even got to wear a borrowed swimming suit from the 20s with a parasol and cap that Vi Blount had lent her. At first the pool rules were very tight, but they were gradually loosened and now you can swim anytime as long as you have a buddy, and grandchildren can swim when there is a lifeguard.


Glad to have decided to come right away, Etta Ruth loved to be in at beginning and help shape Kendal. But even with the great floor plan drawing that her son made, they didn't account for where heaters were located. They had to place a couch in front of one, but set out from the wall. Once, when housekeeping came to clean, they pushed it back too far and all of a sudden she started to smell something. Facilities came quickly and moved it for her. So she would warn anyone moving in to watch for where those heating elements are!


There are still debates about whether Kendal should be more natural or more like a country club. After all, Etta Ruth says, the mice, raccoons, and geese were here first. Our bird feeders now draw them in even more. As a paw print on her window attests, these critters can be very sneaky, using the windows and poles to brace themselves to get up to feeders.


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