CAMDEN AND ROCKLAND - Ruth Dondis Small passed away on December 22, 2014 at her residence at the Anderson Inn, Quarry Hill in Camden. She was 98 and a half years old to the day and in her own words "lived a wonderful life and had the best husband in the world."
Ruth was born on June 22, 1916 in Rockland to James and Ida Pollock Dondis. She was one of nine children and one of the seven who lived to grow up in Rockland on Tillson Avenue in the family home. She excelled at dancing and playing the piano as a child and young adult and graduated from Rockland High School as the class salutatorian in 1934. After high school, where she took commercial as well as college prep classes, she went to work as a bookkeeper at the pants factory in Rockland. It was during the Depression and there was no way Ruth could afford to go on to college. She studied the piano with various teachers in the area, most notably her beloved Mrs. George in Thomaston, and she became an accomplished pianist.
In 1938, Ruth married Samuel Small and they spent their lives together working and raising their three children, William, Edward and Barbara, at their home on Limerock St. in Rockland. They lived in that home together until Sam's death in 2008. Ruth and Sam were married almost seventy years. Ruth spent her life as the ultimate wife and mother, caring for her family and home and was noted for her friendship, kindness, compassion and charity. She was also known for her baking, cooking and housekeeping. She was always the perfect hostess, entertaining family, friends and neighbors and her home was always open to anyone who wanted to drop in for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake or for one of her famous brownies. Her children and grandchildren were always welcomed to bring their friends into her home and they were all welcomed with open arms and a full heart.
In the 1960's, Ruth decided it was time to go to work again after being a stay-at-home mother for twenty-five years. She went to work at the Rockland Public Library, one of her favorite places in Rockland since she was always an avid reader. After learning what she could about library science, she became the librarian at the Rockland District Junior High School in 1966 and stayed at that job until retirement, fifteen years later. Her claim to fame at the school was that in fifteen years of running the library she never lost a book. She also assisted her husband, Sam, in his meat business by doing his bookkeeping all the years he was in business. Ruth was always active, swimming most mornings at 5:30 a.m. at the pool at the Samoset Resort until she was 93 years old. She loved driving her pickup truck around town with her license plate which read Ruths. Sam had taught her how to drive using his truck while they were dating in the mid-1930's, and Ruth always said that she was "a liberated woman" long before the women's liberation movement took place. Ruth and Sam loved to travel and they traveled in the United States, Europe, and Israel.
Ruth was active in many clubs and charities, volunteering her time and efforts for the community she loved. She was active as a young woman in musical and drama clubs in the area. She was a life-long member of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue in Rockland and served as president of the congregation as the first female ever to hold that position. She belonged to the Sisterhood and was a life member of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. Ruth spent time as a den mother for the cub scouts and as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts, was always involved in her children's activities and would support anyone who needed her help. She was a member of the Lady Shrine Club and the Friends of the Rockland Library, volunteering at the library for fifteen years after her retirement. She also taught religious school, was active in the PTA, and during World War II she was an active volunteer, teaching first aid, home nursing, and wrapping bandages. She was a true friend to many.
In February 2000, Ruth was honored by the "Rockland Share the Pride Committee" as Citizen of the Month. In an article in the Courier Gazette, Ruth was quoted as saying "There are two things I would never give up, my citizenship and my library card." About living in Rockland, she said "Rockland is a lovely place to live. I feel privileged to live here and bring up a family here. Rockland has been good to us. Even during the Depression, it was a good place, even as bad as it was. Everyone helped out one another."
After sixty-three years of living and loving her home in Rockland, Ruth moved to Quarry Hill in Camden to the assisted-living at the Anderson Inn. She loved her apartment and appreciated living there. She was always kind and upbeat and was adored by her caregivers. Her family would like to thank all of her caregivers at Quarry Hill, the wonderful Hospice team from Kno-Wal-Lin, and to Karyn Willis, Susan Vollhardt, Margaret Kiley, and Mailyn Dodge who also cared so lovingly for her in her final days.
Ruth was predeceased by her beloved husband, Sam Small, brothers Philip, Maurice, and Joseph Dondis, as well as the two young bothers her parents lost before her birth. She is survived by her brother Ernest Dondis of Corona Del Mar, CA, sisters Edith Dondis of Rockland and Bertha Taplitsky of Merrimack, NH., her children William and Louise Small of Orono, Edward and Linda Small of Delray Beach, FL, and Joel and Barbara Small Fishman of Rockland. She also is survived by her grandchildren Jeffrey and Mindy Fishman of Acton, MA, Mark and Pamela Fishman of Weston, FL, Aaron and Robin Small of Bowie, MD, Eric and Mollie Small of Hoboken, NJ, and Catherine and Craig Rueter of Seoul S. Korea, as well as by four great-grandchildren; Alexa and Evan Fishman of Acton, MA, Grant Fishman of Weston, FL, and Samuel Rueter of Seoul, South Korea. She will be missed by us all.
A funeral will be conducted by Rabbi Natan Margalit at Adas Yoshuron Synagogue on Willow St. in Rockland at 10 a.m. Wednesday, December 24th. Interment will follow at Berliawsky-Small Cemetery in Rockland. Shiva will be observed at the home of Joel and Barbara Fishman, 13 Katahdin Ave., Rockland on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ruth's memory to Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, PO Box 1250, Rockland, ME 04841, to the Friends of the Rockland Public Library, PO Box 764, Rockland, ME 04841, or to Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care & Hospice, 170 Pleasant St. Rockland, ME 04841. Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland. To share a memory or condolence with Ruth's family, please visit her Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.