Isabelle Ruth Reich, age 94, passed away on Sunday Nov. 27, 2016 at Starr Farm Nursing Home, Burlington, Vt., surrounded by her family, following a short illness and a long extraordinary life.
“Ruth” was born on Aug. 17, 1922 to Jesse Martland Blaney and Isabella M. Blaney, (Isabelle M. James) of Verona, N.J. Ruth graduated from Stamford High School, Conn. in 1940, then lived on Long Island, N.Y.
Ruth Reich was a very beautiful woman, a “Renaissance Woman”, extremely bright, an accomplished artist, very well read and extremely skilled. She was a pioneer in the field of art conservation, long before there were graduate training programs in the profession. The daughter of a Brown University-trained chemist (Jesse M. Blaney), who developed first color photography in America, Ruth was no stranger to science, laboratories, experimentation, chemicals, dogged research, and perseverance for answers.
Early on, Ruth became passionate about the preservation of art and antiques, and developed a specialty in restoration of fine ceramics and porcelain. In the 1940s and 1950s, long before quick access to information with computers and the internet, Ruth would travel to New York City libraries to research pigments, materials, resins, and adhesives that could be suitable for her restoration work. Her favorite haunt was Greenwich Village in New York City, where she could purchase the finest artist’s pigments, gold leaf, resins, and other mediums in artist’s shops. In search of the best materials, she often contacted major companies for technical information on new materials and adhesives. Ruth was undaunted by any task and strove for perfection in all her work. She was widely recognized for fine porcelain and ceramics restoration, working for top museums, collectors, and dealers in the New York City and Long Island area for over five decades.
In 1965, Ruth also established Past Times Antiques and operated shops in Bayshore, East Islip, and Cooperstown, N.Y. until 2000. She participated in many fine antiques shows while on Long Island, her favorite being the the prestigious Winter Antiques Show held at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.
Ruth was also an avid “rock hound” and traveled the west extensively. She traveled to Cuba many times in the early 1950s and enjoyed music and art of Havana. She loved the Adirondack Mountains, owned rustic cabins there, and decorated them like miniature “Great Camps.” It was a place to read, relax, and commune with nature.
Ruth was an incredibly kind person, rescuing scores of cats and dogs during her lifetime. Ruth was a devoted and loving, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to many. She was a fabulous personality, incredible home decorator, seamstress extraordinaire, and amazing cook, and was gifted intellectually. She enjoyed humor and loved English comedies and all types of music and song.
In 2001, Ruth moved to The Terraces in Shelburne to be near her daughter and grandchildren and very much enjoyed the rich culture and natural beauty of the area. Ruth was proud to see her daughter, Valerie Hunt, follow in her professional footsteps of art conservation, attending Vassar College for art history and the Cooperstown Graduate Program for art conservation, and subsequently working for the Smithsonian Institution, Shelburne Museum, and the Stony Brook Museum over the last 30 years. Ruth was also very proud to see her beautiful granddaughters, Abigail Isabella Hunt and Jessie Virginia Hunt, attend excellent colleges and pursue their chosen fields of study.
Ruth was predeceased by her parents, Jesse and Isabella Blaney, and her two brothers, William R. Blaney and Richard M. Blaney of Long Island, N.Y.
She was also predeceased by her first husband, Theodore George Reich, in 1964 and many dear friends. Ruth is survived by her daughter Valerie Jane Reich (Valerie Hunt) and her spouse, Ed Welch, as well as her granddaughters, Abigail Isabella Hunt and Jessie Virginia Hunt of Shelburne, Vt.
A memorial service will be held in December for friends and family to celebrate Ruth’s incredible life, her kindness, and her beautiful soul.