Ruth Iris Gardner (née Forman), of Rome, Georgia, passed away August 19th at the age of 90 after several months of illness. Previously she had been in good health and living independently, keeping busy with family, genealogical research, contacting newly discovered relatives and pursuing her passion for drawing and painting. A prolific reader, she read a book a week and rarely failed to complete a New York Times crossword puzzle – both lifelong habits to which she attributed her mind remaining sharp throughout the years… as if she needed the help! Before moving to Georgia after her retirement in 2007, Ruth thrived in Miami and Miami Beach, her own live, work and play community. She was well-suited for her work in the hospitality, hotel and marketing world, where she ascended the ranks of the industry in the ‘60s and ‘70s, breaking glass ceilings when women rarely gained such opportunities. She was happily married for 28 years to her second husband, Harold Gardner, who passed away in 2004, the love of her life and former Vice President of Public Relations for the Fontainebleau Hotel, as well as Executive Director of the Surfside Tourist Board, a position Ruth took over upon his death. Their lives in the hotel business provided the couple many opportunities for travel, a passion Ruth continued to pursue well into her seventh decade, totaling visits to more than 20 countries.
After moving to Rome, her most treasured role was as grandmother to stepson Curtis Gardner and wife Robin’s three children, Zachary, Zoe and Aliya. Ruth volunteered as an administrator and marketer for the Rome International Film Festival and was actively involved with the Rome Area Council for the Arts as well. She played long distance grandmother to son Keith Murphy and wife Lori’s sons Jason and Michael, as well as stepdaughter Lynne Westberry’s daughter Erica. Ruth often traveled with friends to regional art shows and festivals, sometimes featuring her own work. She made many friends in Rome and loved the beautiful surroundings and sense of community offered by her new home. She particularly appreciated the friendly climate (being frequently teased by family members for regarding any temperature lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit as indicating a ‘bitter cold’ day on which outings were surely to be avoided!). A favorite hobby in later years was visiting the live online camera trained on the Berry College campus bald eagle nest and watching the eagle couple reinforce their home each spring, hatch eggs and raise their young.
Ruth is survived by sons Sean Murphy and his wife Tania Casselle, Keith Murphy and his wife Lori, and stepchildren Curtis Gardner, (Robin), Lynne Westberry, (Doug), and Merritt Gardner, (Joy), as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Having chosen cremation, her last wish was that her ashes be scattered together with her beloved Harold’s at one of their favorite vacation spots in the Florida Keys, an event planned for family members this coming spring. Meanwhile an online remembrance event via Zoom is planned, by invitation, for close friends and family sometime this fall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to The Hospitality House for Women, The Rome International Film Festival or The Rome Area Council for the Arts, all non-profits located in the Seven Hills of Rome, Georgia.