Ruth Nancy Downing passed away peacefully on October 14, 2022 in Mill Valley, California, her home for 60 years of a long and remarkable life, filled with accomplishment, world travel, and the love of her family and many friends. She was less than four months shy of celebrating her 100th birthday.
Ruth was born in the small farming town of Joplin, Montana in 1923, the youngest of eight children, to parents Alma and Elmer Hultin. From childhood, she was outgoing, fun-loving and hard-working. She attended the University of Washington, where she met her husband Leonard Downing. They married in 1950, settled in the Bay Area and had two children, son David, followed by their daughter Patricia (Patsy).
Human rights, equality (Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 1970’s) social justice and the environment were causes she supported and were based on her fundamental beliefs and core values. She was active in progressive political movements, mental health non-profits, environmental causes, and citizen diplomacy. She served as a board member on many organizations including the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, Marin Mental Health Association, Marin Interfaith Task Force and West Point Inn to name just a few.
In 1960 – 1965 the family lived in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), where Ruth’s interest in international development led her to help establish the first Peace Corps program in Asia in 1961. In 1980, she returned to the Peace Corps as the Deputy Director in Thailand.
In her 50’s, Ruth returned to school and earned an MA in Counseling from San Francisco State University in 1975. She was hired as the first female administrator at Marin Community College District and Dean of Student Services at Indian Valley College.
She traveled extensively, to every continent (except Antarctica), exploring and learning about the cultures she visited. While in Bangladesh, she received an MA from Dhaka University, in Islamic History and Culture, and years later, became a docent at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum for 8 years. She loved the outdoors and the arts. Mt. Tamalpais held a special place in her heart, spending many days hiking her trails. Backpacking in the High Sierra provided spiritual sustenance. Her competitive nature was evident when she played tennis, and rooted for the Oakland A’s and her grandchildren’s sports teams. Ruth had many many friends spanning the globe.
Lastly, but certainly not least was that Ruth was a great dancer and had a way with dogs.
Ruth was predeceased by her husband Leonard Downing and is survived by her children David Downing and Patricia Rippe, Patricia’s husband Brad Rippe and their children Erica and Leah.
The memorial service was a private ceremony.
Ruth truly lived “a life well-lived”. Cheers Ruth!
To send flowers
to the family or plant a tree
in memory of Ruth Nancy Downing, please visit our floral store.