Ruth Marie Olson Ralph was born September 14, 1931 in Rapid City, South Dakota and died peacefully on February 2, 2020 at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth Massachusetts. She was the first child, born to Rev. Ole and Hazel Olson. She went to elementary and secondary school in small South Dakota communities and studied at Sioux Falls College, Oregon State University, and Kent State University from which she received her Ph.D. She was a student at Kent State and on campus on May 4, 1970, the day of the fateful shootings.
Her early years were in a family filled with love and religious devotion. A severe blow to this was the death of her father shortly before her 13th birthday. Though sad, the little family carried on and still committed to higher education for both her and her brother. About a year after her father’s death, the new minister arrived with her large foster family, and Ruth welcomed and was welcomed by new foster sisters and brothers.
In 1952, she married Roger Ralph, and in the subsequent years, two sons, John Timothy – “Tim” and Robert Paul “Robbie” were born. Over the years, these sons formed families of their own and brought 12 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren into her life.
Ruth’s professional career included being a science teacher and a mental health researcher. She served in these professions in South Dakota, Ohio, and Maine. The last several years of her active career were with the Department of Mental Health of the State of Maine and the University of Southern Maine.
As Ruth had earlier received treatment for issues in her own mental health, including receiving electric shock therapy, she became active, and, in time, a respected leader in the “consumers” group of mental health professionals. These are the persons who have received mental health services and so can help the mental health professions see their tasks and issues from both sides. This group advocates for reform in the mental health system and fights the stigma that society too often places on mental illness.
Closely related to this, she was also vitally involved in the recovery emphasis in mental health practice. Recovery refers to the person’s own perspective – gaining hope and dignity, learning how to live independently and manage life with a positive sense of self and with hope and purpose as they deal with their mental health issues.
She was principal author of a section on mental health in a Surgeon General’s report on health. She was a delegate to a mental health conference convened by the then Vice President’s wife, Tipper Gore. Ruth was frequently invited to speak on the topics of “Consumer” and “Recovery” topics at regional conferences. She also responded to an invitation to come to Great Britain and speak to these themes.
In 2004, she was the co-editor with Patrick W. Corrigan and contributor to Recovery in Mental Illness: Broadening Our Understanding of Wellness published by the American Psychological Association. She was also author or co-author of a number of articles in professional journals.
She retired and moved to Linden Ponds where she has been a leader in the memoir writing group, a participant in singing and recorder groups, a member of the interfaith advisory group, and a friend to many.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Roger Ralph, and her sister-in-law Beverly Raney.
Visiting Hours for Ruth will be held on Thursday, February 6, from 4-7 P.M. at the Downing Cottage Funeral Chapel, 21 Pond Street, Hingham. Relatives and Friends are invited.
A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, February 8, at 1 P.M. at the First Baptist Church, 85 Main Street, Hingham.
A private burial will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Ruth’s name can be made to the First Baptist Church Memorial Fund, 85 Main St., Hingham, MA 02043.
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