Obituary: Ruth Kassel, 1931-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Ruth Kassel, 1931-2020 

Shelburne woman remembered for helping those in need — and for her trademark phrase, "Isn't this fun!"

click to enlarge Ruth Kassel
  • Ruth Kassel

Ruth Bettman Kassel, who lived her life with resolute determination and a truly giving heart, died peacefully on May 5, 2020, at Wake Robin in Shelburne, Vt. She was 89. Her dear husband of 67 years predeceased her there, just over four months ago.

Ruth Bettman was born in 1931 to a loving and secure family and raised in the Great Depression in Chicago, Ill. She developed a lifelong love of learning and inquiry as a student at the Lab School at the University of Chicago. She earned a degree at Wellesley College, in art history and music, and during that time she also met the love of her life, Bud Kassel.

They settled in Middletown, N.Y., in the late 1950s, and she adjusted to life in a small town and the family’s retail business. Like many intelligent and capable women of her generation, she found ways to thrive despite the constraints women faced. She threw herself into civic life in support of those in need, in particular women and mothers, founding or helping to steer a number of social services and education organizations in her community. She discovered politics in mid-life, starting with the Middletown School Board, and then serving several terms in the Orange County legislature in the 1980s and ’90s, including as chair of its Finance Committee. During this time she also earned a law degree at Pace University Law School and practiced family law, assisting children involved in family court matters, until 2002, when she and Bud moved to Burlington, Vt.

In Vermont she was a dedicated and upbeat volunteer at ECHO and the Flynn Theater in Burlington, as well as an avid member of the South County Chorus, and she made close friends and took on new projects in the community of 40 College Street, where she and Bud lived for more than 15 years.

Throughout her long and productive life, however, her priority was always her family. She often said the most important thing she ever did was to raise her three beloved sons and foster their growth and happiness in the world. On their behalf, she endured many cold and rainy Mother’s Day canoe trips with a smile and her trademark phrase, “Isn’t this fun!” A Cub Scout den mother (three times), she took an active interest in everything they did and gave them everything she possibly could, including the freedom to be who they would become.

Her giving heart truly flourished as a grandmother to her 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. At that point, freed of most other adult responsibilities, she focused her still-considerable energy, talent and boundless love on them. No whim was too small or child’s game too silly for her — she loved meeting her children’s children (and their children) “where they were” and being fully present with them however they wanted. Elaborate and messy arts and crafts projects were common, and she play-acted whatever roles were needed for the creation of happy and memorable moments. As they aged, she offered them wise advice, an empathetic ear and the use of her car. She nurtured them all, and inspired them to thrive, by her example.

Ruth is survived by her sons and their spouses: David (Magda Farag) of Tempe, Ariz., John (Julie Campoli) of Burlington, Vt., and Peter (Carol Irish) of Shelburne, Vt.; grandchildren Yasmin, Misha, Kareem, Clara, Simon, Thomas, Sara, Sami and Eben (and their spouses and partners); great-grandchildren Hanna, Omar, Nora, Kareem, Youssef, Nadia and Lewis; sister-in-law Betsy Brown, of Kenosha, Wis.; and many dear nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Bud Kassel; her brother, Ralph Bettman; her brother-in-law, Howard Brown; and her beloved grandson Zeke.

The family will gather privately to remember Ruth, when possible. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan Counties, N.Y. (an organization she cofounded), or ECHO, in Burlington, Vt., or a community service organization of your choice.

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