Posts made in December 2nd, 2010

Love Letters, Chapter 3

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An introduction to Ruth L. Ives

In 1949, Ruth Ives was 32 years old, living in Syracuse, New York. A native of White Plains, near New York City, I was curious how/why she’d ended up in Syracuse… a city in Central New York, about 150 miles east of Buffalo. I started Googling.

Syracuse Herald Journal - January 8, 1947

I found a few mentions of Ruth Ives in the Syracuse Herald Journal where I learned she served as the director of the Opera Workshop at Syracuse University. In an article dated January 8, 1947, which included a photo, the paper reported that Miss Ruth Ives would be singing five folk songs for an alumni gathering at the Syracuse Hotel. She would also be directing her students in a production of a playlet titled, “The Frantic Physician.” Click the thumbnail at right to read the whole article.

I found another photo of Ruth Ives from the Syracuse University yearbook, dated 1947. Miss Ives was also mentioned in the 1949 yearbook (the same year the love letters were written) in this description of the Opera Workshop, for which she was the director:

Ruth Ives, Onandagan Yearbook - 1947

Ruth Ives, Onandagan Yearbook, 1947

“The Opera Workshop, under the direction of Miss Ruth Ives, was started at Syracuse in 1946. The main goal of the Opera Workshop is to develop an American musical theater in the medium between grand opera and musical comedy. When the Opera Workshop sponsors a production it tries to appeal to present-day American audience by presenting the opera in english. Most of its productions are written by contemporary composers and it goes a step further by encouraging students to write original operas which are produced by Opera Workshop.”

I found one other mention of Ruth Ives, in the 2009 obituary of her brother, Edward “Sandy” Ives. You may recall in Ruth’s second letter she referred to her brother Sandy when she was asking John Van Duyn about his new car: “Do tell me more about the car. What color is it? Is it four door? Dad and Sandy say that 4000 miles is practically brand new.”

It turns out Ruth’s younger brother, Sandy, was a respected English professor who took up an interest in folklore and folksong history while he was teaching at the University of Maine. He became a respected author, historian, performer, and recording artist of northeast/northwoods folksongs. Heres a snippet from Sandy’s obituary, published in the Bangor Daily News on August 4, 2009:

Edward D. “Sandy” Ives passed away peacefully Aug. 1, 2009, at his home. Sandy was born Sept. 4, 1925, in White Plains, N.Y., the son of Warren L. and Millicent (Dawson) Ives. In addition to his loving family, he leaves behind a legacy of songs, stories and cherished memories among the countless people whose lives he touched as teacher, researcher, writer and friend. He was predeceased by his parents; an infant brother, Baby John; and his beloved sister, Ruth.

By now, I had a pretty good idea of who Ruth Ives was. From her letters, we know she’d moved back to White Plains from Syracuse in 1949 and was working at Altman’s Department Store in the cosmetics department. She was a fairly good tennis player, a terrible bridge player, and she was very much in love with a doctor by the name of John Van Duyn, working at the Arrowhead Clinic in Duluth, Minnesota.

So, who was this mysterious Dr. John Van Duyn? How did they ever meet? Did they ever work out their differences and get married? More next time…

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