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Damascus resident served on Gresham-Barlow School Board for 24 years, left mark in many community schools

COURTESY PHOTO: GRESHAM-BARLOW SCHOOL DISTRICT - Kathy Ruthruff

EAST COUNTY— Katherine Ruthruff, longtime former member of the Gresham-Barlow School Board and child advocate, died Monday, May 25.

"I will miss her," said board member Kris Howatt. "Kathy was on the Gresham-Barlow board when I first joined, nearly 20 years ago."

Ruthruff served on the Gresham-Barlow School Board for a quarter-century, from 1994 to 2018. She served as board chair twice.

Prior to her time on the school board, she was a member of the school district's Budget Committee.

Ruthruff was a fifth-generation Oregonian and had lived in Damascus since 1975, on property her family homesteaded.

Ruthruff was born July 8, 1949, in Portland, and attended Portland's Marysville Elementary and Marshall High School. She went on to Oregon State University for the 1967-68 school year and then transferred to Portland State University, graduating with a degree in psychology in 1971.

She married Ron in 1971, and they built a house on the Damascus property. She worked as both a counselor and pharmacy technician.

Ruthruff began her career volunteering with the schools as a stay-at-home mom in Damascus. She and another mother, Roberta Cranswick, started a much-needed before-and-after school day care program at Damascus Elementary School. 

That led to Ruthruff's involvement with the Clackamas County Commission on Children and Families in 1989, to advocate for better day care for children in the area. She served as chairman of the all-volunteer commission from 1998 to 2005. 

Working on the commission, she realized there was a need for student health centers in high schools. 

Ruthruff worked with Laurie Monnes Anderson (now a state senator, D-Gresham) to get the first one established. Ruthruff also served on one of the unification committees when the Damascus school district merged with Gresham. 

"Kathy was a consummate public servant during her 25 years of service on the (Gresham-Barlow) school board," said Chair Blake Petersen.

"Her legacy is well intact in our community's schools — from Deep-Creek Damascus K-8, where she established the original after-school program and volunteered for so many years, to the Center for Advanced Learning, an innovative charter school that she championed from start to finish, to the brand-new and revitalized buildings from the school bond for which she so advocated."

Howatt said Ruthruff's "support and guidance provided me plenty of leadership opportunities, locally and statewide."

Howatt added, "Early on, her philosophy around board service was clear; how will our decisions make a difference for all students, not just a few. She was also ahead of her time in asking for increased counseling support for our students. During her service, she encouraged board development and training, so we would know what was out there and what were the trends. She was proud of the Gresham-Barlow board and loved the community. Kathy used to say, 'They're only in third grade for one year — what are we doing for them today.'"

Ruthruff's family will hold a private ceremony with a public memorial planned for later in the summer.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation in Ruthruff's name.


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