Ruth Mae Harriston Ridley, age 96, passed away peacefully in her sleep at her residence in Somerset, New Jersey on Friday, November 13, 2020.
She was born on January 24, 1924, to George and Jessie Harriston in East Orange, New Jersey. The eldest and only daughter of three, was raised in Roselle, New Jersey. As the eldest, Ruth took on the role of big sister, educator, guardian and protector at an early age. She could recall many times where she had to fight in defense of her brothers, especially for George Jr. “Georgie” who was smaller in size.
While growing up, she attended school within the Roselle district and although she had great passion for the Arts and was accepted into art school, she put her dreams on hold to help support her family. Her love for art continued throughout her life and there is evidence of her drawing and painting as recent as several months ago. Over the years, Ruth became notable for her many crochet and knitting creations, which she crafted as gifts to friends and family. She was still making headbands for her great granddaughter in preparation for the coming winter months until taking ill in September.
In 1947, Ruth met French on a blind date. Although their chance at love began there, it was paused after Ruth gave French an incorrect telephone number - till this day, we still don’t know if this was by intention! Yet as love would have it, Cupid struck again and they reconnected eventually becoming Husband and Wife in 1949. From their union, they became the proud Parents to two beautiful daughters, Sherrilyn Marlene Ridley (deceased) and Robin Francis (Ridley) Stewart.
Throughout her life, Ruth worked various jobs and at times, worked 3 jobs simultaneously to accomplish their dream of becoming homeowners. She held manufacturing positions with Merck & Company and Johnson & Johnson. She later transitioned to the healthcare field and became a Nursing Home Aide at Parker Homes. While successful in these roles, she obtained her fulfillment most as a grandmother in 1971. As a result, she left her jobs and courageously started her own business as an in-home Daycare Provider, where she graciously opened her home to countless children.
Endearingly known to many as “Nana,” her caring demeanor and inviting spirit made everyone love her as their own. She had an infectious laugh that filled the room with happiness. Not without adversity, she always tried to maintain a positive outlook and receive the proverbial life lesson.
Ruth was also feisty and could be a force to be reckoned with. Most times, she maintained her calm and ability to be rational. There were other times, depending on the situation, where she was a firecracker and had no problem putting a person in their rightful place. This often worked to French’s advantage, since he did not enjoy confrontation, allowing him to bask in the place of “good cop”.
To know Nana is to also know, she embraced glamour in her younger years. With her husband working for a cosmetic manufacturer, there was always a supply of cosmetics and fragrances. In the 1970’s Ruth wore firey red hair color, Merle Norman makeup, and her nails were well groomed. Coming from North Jersey, Nana maintained a certain swag and fashion sense that preceded her. She was a seamstress, not only sewing her own clothes, but her children’s clothes as well as the costumes for her daughter’s band, as the honorary band Mother. There was nothing she could not do. She had a love for sport cars, and drove with a “Led Foot.”
But as her adventurous side waned, she took on a passion for family vans, Econolines to be exact. Ruth was 5’2 but this did not stop her from driving the biggest, fanciest van in town! Most notable for crocheting and cooking, Ruth’s hobbies also included listening to music, attending jazz clubs with her hubby, baking, as well other arts and crafts.
Ruth was preceded in death by her Parents, George and Jessie Harriston, Brothers, George Jr. “Georgie” and Roland and Daughter, Sherrilyn Ridley.
Ruth is survived by her loving and long-time love, French S. Ridley; Daughter, Robin Stewart; Granddaughter and caregiver, Tameka Ridley; grandson Michael Stewart and granddaughter, Mandi Stewart; Great grandchildren, Makaia Sterrette, Elijah Stewart and Zariah Stewart, along with a host of family and friends.
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