Ruth P. Ristich

NORTH YARMOUTH — Ruth Pullen Ristich died peacefully at home on May 7, 2012 under the loving care of her family and caretakers.

Her home is the same farm her grandparents Warren Winfield Scott Pullen and Josephine Ruth Curtis Pullen lived in since 1879. They were descended from Yarmouth residents, sea captain Joseph R. Curtis, Louisa Jane Sumner, and school teacher Baxter Pullen and Elizabeth Carlton and second wife Mary Pinkham of Leeds and Palermo.

Ruth is the last surviving member of her generation from Leon Cecil Pullen and Julia Madelon Mellen’s four children, all born and raised in Portland. After graduating from Portland High in 1933, Ruth attended Westbrook Junior College for one year, then Harrisonburg Virginia State Teachers College (now James Madison University). After teaching Home Economics in Virginia at Crozet High School from 1937 to1940, she worked for the University of New Hampshire from 1940 to 1942 as a home demonstration agent in Carroll County.

Traveling across the state in her 1941 Plymouth “woodie” station wagon, she taught workshops on practical domestic science skills, helping homemakers save money by teaching such skills as canning, upholstering, making mattresses from surplus cotton, re-seating, sewing, making dress forms. She also served as a judge at local fairs.

In 1942, Ruth made history by joining the first class of 440 women officers and became a First Lieutenant in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Her tours of duty included attending Bakers & Cooks School in Fort Riley, Kansas, supervising instructors at the Bakers & Cooks School at Fort Ogelthorpe, Ga., and at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Fort DesMoines, Iowa, supervising the officers’ mess. She became the base mess management officer for her last tour of duty with the Air Transport Command at Kindley Field in Bermuda, where she met her husband, celestial navigator Samuel S. Ristich. They were married at the Curtis home at 7 South Street, Yarmouth in November of 1945 and celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in 2007 before Sam died in 2008. After they moved to Ithaca, N.Y. in 1946 the GI Bill paid for their graduate degrees at Cornell University. Ruth completed a master’s degree in textiles and clothing and almost finished a master’s degree in education before starting a family.

Ruth returned to teaching home economics in Patchogue, N.Y., and New Brunswick, N.J., after her five children were born. She also taught sewing at home, night school classes in upholstering and slipcover making, and during the summers worked in the public schools. Every summer, she’d pack her five children into the family VW bus and drive from New Jersey to Maine to visit the relatives in Portland and North Yarmouth, usually driving at nighttime.

Ruth’s other interests included antique glass collecting, and quilt making, which she started at age 75. She helped organize making quilts to raffle off for the First Universalist Church in Yarmouth for many years.

After retiring to the Pullen Family farm in 1981, Ruth belonged to the Fortnightly Club, the Victorian Society of Maine, the Portland Museum of Art, the Maine Historical Society, Yarmouth Historical Society, North Yarmouth Historical Society, The Jones Museum, Calico Quilters, Pine Tree State Quilters, and First Universalist Church of Yarmouth.

She would like to be remembered as a loving mother and wife and as one who truly enjoyed people and helping others.

Ruth is survived by her five children, Julianne Malm of Santa Rosa, Calif., May Ristich of Gill, Mass., Stephen Dwight Ristich of Sebago, Ruthie Ristich of Somerville, Mass., Josephine Ristich of North Yarmouth and Bonnie Bump of Portland; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

The family will host an open house on Friday and Saturday, June 8 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and June 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at 731 Sligo Road, North Yarmouth. The Celebration of Ruth’s Life Service will be held on Sunday, June 10, at 2:30 p.m. at the First Universalist Church, 97 Main St, Yarmouth. A reception will follow.

Contributions may be sent to: The Ruth Pullen Ristich Fund, First Universalist Church, 97 Main Street, Yarmouth, ME 04096.

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