Ruth Norbury Fitting died on Jan. 3, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C., after a brief illness.
Born Jan. 22, 1927, to Cedric and Gladys Norbury, Ruth was raised at her family’s farm near Stockton, N.J., with her older brother Ted (1920-1951). From 1944-1946 she studied English and history at Trenton State Teacher’s College, and sociology and anthropology at the University of Chicago. From 1949-1951 she studied government at Barnard College in NYC, from which she graduated two weeks before giving birth to full-term twins. In 1950 she married Joseph Ross Keyes and they had four children, Bruce, Brian, Leslie and Darcy. She had two more children, Carl and Luisa (“Missy”) with her second husband, Henry Klingler, a prosperous farmer in Delaware Township.
After the death of her second husband, with the encouragement of a good friend and neighbor, choreographer Jose’ Limon, she became involved with the arts and married Charles Woodford, son of choreographer Doris Humphrey, and from 1964 through 1967, they ran Ramblerny, a school for the performing arts (where Holly Hedge is currently located), where the music department was run by Phil Woods, #1 alto sax player according to Downbeat and Playboy magazines for many years running, and his wife, Chan Parker, widow of the legendary Charlie “Bird” Parker. Modern dance was taught by NYC choreographer Joyce Trisler and ballet instructors included Yuri and Ireena Gotchaulk, who had emigrated from the Soviet Union. This was during the height of popularity of Bebop Jazz and well-known celebrities frequently visited Ramblerny when performing at the Music Circus outside Lambertville, which featured many great entertainers, including Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Woody Herman, Phil Ochs, Stan Kenton, Dione Warwick, Sara Vaugh, Simon & Garfunkel, Lionel Hampton, The Smothers Brothers, Johnny Mathis, The Four Seasons, Peter, Paul & Mary, Dizzy Gillespie, Maurice Chevalier, Judy Collins, and many other world-famous performers.
Ruth was an independent thinker with an adventurous spirit. She had a passion for elephants and traveled extensively throughout her life, to Europe, Africa (where she saw elephants in the wild on safari), Mexico, China (twice, and as she would say, “before cars and after cars”), Hawaii, Scandinavia, Europe, the British Isles (she was an Anglophile with an extensive knowledge of English history) the Caribbean, the Galapagos (she hitched a ride on a freighter, “to see the blue-footed booby”) and Canada. She had a Yorkshire Terrier named Pip that she loved dearly. In 1973, she learned to fly and bought a twin-engine airplane, a Beechcraft Baron, earned her instrument rating, and flew up and down the East Coast, reading and knitting after putting the plane on autopilot. She bought a wilderness island in Maine in 1970.
With her fourth husband, F. Louis “Lou” Fitting, she had a real estate business, Fitting Realty. She formed a title abstract company, New Hope Abstract. She built the New Hope Shopping Center, now the location of Cornerstone Fitness, McCaffrey’s grocery store, DelRay True Value hardware, Wells Fargo Bank, Angel’s Hallmark Cards and Gifts, CVS and other stores. She was an accomplished bridge player. She and Lou enjoyed homes on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas, Vero Beach, Fla., and the cabin they built on Salt Island in Machiasport, Maine. She and Lou built a post-and-beam home in Solebury, Pa., Strawberry Hill, with materials from a barn they had disassembled in Tinicum Township. Late in life, she took classes in creative writing in Vero Beach and wrote numerous short works, mostly wickedly funny. Well into her 80’s, she traveled to Costa Rica and studied Spanish.
Ruth was much loved and is sorely missed by her family. She is survived by her six children, Bruce Keyes of Trenton, N.J.; Brian Keyes and his wife, Lisa Gladden Keyes, of New Hope, Pa.; Leslie McCann and her husband, Michael, of Glenside, Pa.; Darcy Craven of Mesa, Ariz.; Carl Klingler and his wife, Andrea Mergentime, of Stockton, N.J.; and Luisa “Missy” White and her husband, Robert of Chapel Hill, N.C., as well as 10 grandchildren, John Keyes, Ross Keyes, Peter Row, Jessica Row, Candice Carr Kelman, Ph.D., Amanda Klingler Phillips, Henry Klingler, Curtis Klingler, Gus Brighton, and Sam Brighton, and six great-grandchildren, Howard “Howie” and Clover Keyes, Isabella “Bella” Gallegos, Sophia and Teagan Kelman; and Clara Norbury Phillips.
There will be a celebration of Ruth’s Life at the Bucks County Audubon Visitor Center on Saturday, June 17 at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, it was Ruth’s wish that donations be made to Planned Parenthood, and was heard to declare before her death: “We won’t go back.”