I’ve been to the west coast twice in the past 5 years. Each time I’ve been out there, I’ve lost a grandmother. I’m all out of grandmothers. Indeed, Ruth was the last of my grandparents to die. What follows was sent to me by one of my uncles, titled “Ruth’s magical journey of magicalness.” While no life can be adequately expressed in text, especially in just a couple of pages of text, I find that this does give the reader a nice overview and glimpse into life of an extrodinary woman.
Ruth Tiffany Goodman Dobbins
August 28, 1912 – March 30, 2006
Her Children, Grandchildren and Sister
Ruth was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the eldest of four sisters, the daughter of James F. Goodman and Eloise Cameron Osborne. For generations her father’s family had been in the lumber business, following the forests from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. Her sisters are Mary Goodman Geyer and Margo Decker and Elizabeth Jones. The Goodman sisters attended Christian Science Sunday School and Sunset Hill School in Kansas City. Ruth graduated in a class of twelve, many of whom stayed in touch throughout their lives. She began college at Antioch College, transferring to Vassar College when her sister Mary started there. Ruth majored in economics and languages. Ruth and Mary traveled together in the summers while in college, taking classes in Moscow, Paris and Geneva.
Ruth met her husband, Donald Vernam Dobbins, while they were working at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC where Don’s father, D. C. Dobbins, was a member of Congress. After they married on March 2nd, 1936, they honeymooned in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on their way to Don’s new job with the Resettlement Administration in Amarillo, Texas. From there they came back to Champaign where Don completed law school at the U of I, joined his father in practice at Dobbins & Dobbins and started their family– Elinor, twins Cam and Jim, and Charlie (and the loyal family dog, Mike). For 25 years the family lived at 110 North Prospect in Champaign. Interwoven threads that ran all through Ruth’s life were education, family, adventure, service and independence. She believed in life long learning for everyone.
Community service in the old-fashioned sense of the term saw Ruth as a Cub Scout Den Mother, a long time volunteer at the Champaign Library and first and foremost an advocate for family planning. In 1940 she was one of the founders of the Champaign County Family Planning Center, now Planned Parenthood of East Central Illinois, which today serves 36 counties. She volunteered there in a wide variety of capacities and was proud to still be working into her 90’s. Even after she became legally blind, she served as a file clerk, culling files and becoming a master shredder. In recognition of her contributions, PPEIC established the annual Ruth Dobbins Award for outstanding volunteer service.
Ruth was fierce about her independence, but when she decided it was time to give something up, she did it and moved on. Her adjustment to the significant challenges of widowhood and blindness were inspiring. After Don died in 1981 she kept their boat, the Anhinga, a 43' Gulfstar trawler, in Indiantown, Florida and continued to live aboard each winter for another 15 years"the barefoot part of her life. She was active in the Indiantown Yacht Club and helped set up a little “twig” library (a branch of a branch) at the Indiantown Marina. She joined the YMCA for a variety of exercise classes and walked every day. For 35 years she lived at Park Place Condominium in Champaign where she made many friends and enjoyed long walks in West Side Park and to Carmon’s, the library, the post office and the downtown Champaign.
Ruth thrived on adventures small and large. She filled the family station wagon with her children and their friends for trips to every U of I barn and to the lakes of Kickapoo. During summers she drove four children under twelve, supplies and orange crates of books up north to “SeaBeeHive” at Basset Lake, Minnesota"a three-room log cabin with propane stove and refrigerator, a little red hand pump at the sink and an outhouse out back. Exposed to this unfettered life, her children thrived. Nightly entertainment was Ruth’s reading of the classics which instilled in the children a voracious appetite for reading. It is a marvel that she coped with four highly active children from Memorial Day to Labor Day a half mile from the nearest road without electricity and Don…who flew North in his Gruman SeaBee amphibious plane every other weekend. Twice Ruth and Don loaded gear, two boats, a canoe and all the children into the station wagon to camp out on Canadian wilderness lakes. After the children left home, Don and Ruth twice captained their own boats down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. They explored the Mayan ruins of Mexico and Central America and fished Central and South America, Canada and Alaska. Together Ruth and Don conceived and established the pioneering sport fishing camp, ClÃºb de Pesca de Casa Mar, in the remote jungles of the Rio Colorado in Costa Rica. After Don’s death, Ruth continued to travel as far north as Iceland and as far south as the Amazon .
Ruth has four grandsons: Seth Dobbins, AC Capehart, David Dobbins and Scott Dobbins. When each of them turned thirteen, she exposed them to the grandeur of the West on camping trips and rafting expeditions. At 92 she sat in the bottom of a canoe for a four hour float trip on the Current River in Missouri. At the time of her death, Ruth was planning to take her hiking boots to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this summer. She always liked to have at least one trip on the drawing board.
She truly lived a full life.
Private interment will take place at the Forrest Home Cemetery in Marinette, Wisconsin.
Contributions in Ruth’s memory may be made to:
Planned Parenthood of East Central Illinois
302 East Stoughton
Champaign, IL 61820
Friends of the Champaign Public Library
505 South Randolph
Champaign, IL 61820