Chester Chatter: The final chapter

By Donna Douglas
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Life has many chapters, the final chapter for our beloved mother, Ruthie Douglas, started with a bad fall. Our mother, Ruthie a.k.a Chester Chatter, had a bad fall one morning. This was the start of a new chapter for her.

My sister Jean, who had been the primary one to assist our mom with her medical needs, took mom to Ascutney Hospital. After a two-week stay, it was decided the best for mom was rehab at Genesis in Lebanon. This was a decision not made lightly. Our mom was resilient, brave and courageous. Mom stated more than once, “That was a bad fall, I just don’t know.” Suddenly my sister and I were filled with the emotion that most in our situation feel. Flooded with hope, and reality of the situation. Between tears and laughter, we concentrated on making our mother as comfortable as possible.

The staff on the 1st floor of Genesis were loving to Mother. They would let her sit out by their station at night while they continued to work. Mom would share so many memories, which seemed to sustain her at this time. She would tell them about her chapter of life as a teenager in the 1950s to the teenage farmer’s wife of the ’60s , the mother of two young girls in the ’70s and the widow at 39 in the early 1980s.

She spoke of her years working Magic Mountain ski resort, Tater Hill Country Club and as a Lunch Lady at Chester schools. She spoke of her time on the school board, years as a justice of the peace and her favorite — as writer of the Chester Chatter column. Mom loved her town of Chester and its residents and one of her greatest joys came from writing about them. She would find the good in her subject’s lives and share that with her readers.

Many do not know, but Mom was also a great poet. Mom wanted to know others opinions and respected them. Growing up there were always wonderful conversations, and debates around Mom’s table. She encouraged us to be free-thinkers, to follow our own paths.

But now Mom and we girls entered a chapter that was surreal and uncomfortable; Mom had been ill before but had a way of regaining her health, but this time felt different.

I observed Mom carving out that new chapter in the nursing home. One day, while walking with her, she spoke about wanting to go home and, with a pause, stated she did not know if that would happen. After a few minutes she said, “I am going to run this place, I will be queen here.” In just a little over two weeks, she was indeed Queen.

At night she would hang out with the nurse like she was their mother or best friend. Several times the LNAs, when finished with their duties, would join Ruthie in her room to watch TV or just visit.

I watched Mom listened carefully to them, and give each encouragement. It wasn’t unusual for staff members to stop me in the hall to tell me how Ruthie had helped them with a problem, adding that they loved her. Mom loved and valued people. She did not judge them, and she could keep a secret like God. Mom always saw the good in people and understood the human condition.

On Saturday morning, while I was at work, I receive a call from my younger, stronger sister Jean. “Donna, you need to come to the hospital now.” The drive to Dartmouth-Hitchcock was the longest in my life. When I arrived, my dear sister was comforting our mother in such a respectful loving way. I felt so proud to belong to this tribe of women. “The Doctors” — Dr. Dick and Dr. West — made sure mom was not in pain and was lovingly respected. Mom was moved to a private room, where we the family celebrated Mom’s life with stories, hugs, “I love yous” and memories. Mom would squeeze our hands. Nurses Sarah and Molly were amazing in their love, tenderness, and respect for our mother.

On the second morning, Mom was able to move to the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care, an amazing place that was like a Buddhist retreat: natural, warm, comforting. Mom was in the Jupiter Retreat Room. Her nurse made her comfortable with a warm quilt, Willie Nelson music played and sunlight streamed in the windows with a porch outside her window, much like the one at her Chester home. The doors to the porch were opened to the outside, which is important for the traveling of one’s soul.

Family was gathered around her, her favorite time of the day was approaching … late afternoon. With a slight shrug of her shoulders, as she always did when understanding a situation, she took her last breath. Mom’s spirit/soul rose and left the room like that of a queen going home, out into the sunlight.

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Filed Under: Chester ChatterCommunity and Arts Life

About the Author: Ruthie Douglas is originally from Springfield but has called Chester her home for 58 years, and has been writing the Chester Chatter column for more than 40 of those years. Ruthie is also a longtime volunteer throughout the community.

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  1. Ginger Farquhar says:

    What a wonderful tribute to our loved “Ruthie”. Hugs to both Donna & Jeanie!

  2. A beautiful, loving tribute to your mother. So many memories flood back of both you girls and of Joe, too, at the Chester Inn in the 1980s. Your mother, too, who was always so proud of you. Ruthie was Chester…her presence was everywhere. She leaves behind a community richer for having had Ruthie to sing its praises.

  3. Peter Daniels says:

    Thank you Donna for a very moving tribute to your mom’s last days. Ruthie was always a staunch supporter of our Springfield class of ’59. She will be sorely missed at our monthly luncheons and we will miss her quick witt and forever laughter. We would like to find an early photo of your mom to post in her memory on our class website.

  4. Thank you so much Donna for sharing your loving personal end of Ruthie’s days with us.
    I have smiled and cried reading through this. Your words brought Ruthie alive to me….I could almost hear her voice and definitely could see her face.
    Your mother was such a vital presence in Chester ..loved by all .
    I loved reading the Chester Telegraph and always turned to her column first to read…enjoyed it so much!
    Godspeed Ruthie … were so blessed to have two loving daughters and many, many friends who will miss you very much.

  5. Toby Treu says:

    Dear Donna and Jean,
    Your mother’s face was the first thing I saw for so many years at CAES. She greeted everyone with a smile and made sure that the kiddos were fed a healthy meal. She always spoke of you two with pride and love. I hope the many wonderful memories/stories will help fill your void.
    Warmly, Toby Treu

  6. Stephanie Wing says:

    I had the pleasure of working with your Mom. She was a wonderful lady. She will be greatly missed.

  7. Jay Joseph says:

    Dear Donna and Jean
    Our condolences on your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to a great Mom and friend to all. Ruthie will be forever a part of our Chester experience.

    Jay Joseph and Susan Ronsheim

  8. John Morawski says:

    Beautifully written Donna! I too was fortunate to have worked with Ruthie at Tater Hill.
    She was simply a delight to be around! My best wishes go out to you and Jean and all other family and friends.
    Maybe you should consider picking up writing Chester Chatter!

  9. Mary Butera says:

    Dear Donna and Jean
    So very sorry 😞. Your mom was unique
    Victor and I met Ruthie at Tater Hill and once
    went with her to St Thomas for a week
    Always had fun with her 😃🌞💕

  10. Deborah Costa says:

    We always enjoyed seeing Ruthie at the Chester Legion post a few years ago before we stopped going. She was feisty yet sweet. We enjoyed reading her missives on the seasons, local activities and her life experiences. Once again we extend our sympathy to Ruthie’s family. “Life has not ended, only changed.”

    Deb Costa and Ron Betts, Belmont, VT

  11. Ginny Gosselin says:

    I loved talking and listening and reading all her stories.. Always sounded like she grew up with a wonderful and comical family. Her stories were just the greatest to read and she remembered them so well.. I also worked in Chester and it was always a delight to be able to see her in any given day. She seemed to enjoy Life and seemed to be her way for her to convey that to everyone. will miss her a lot. She left a footprint in everyones life that she met. How could anyone expect anything less…..?She shared her life with us all. What a wonderful tribute to her…….

  12. Susan Hammond says:

    Beautifully said Donna. Loved your mom. Among other things I was so lucky to be able to work with her at Tater Hill way back when I was in college. She not only taught me how to be a short order cook and a bartender but how to use humor to deescalate a situation when you got a drunk or rude patron. By her example I learned to not be afraid to strongly state my opinion and not be man-splained to, skills I have used my whole life. Chester was so lucky to be able to call Ruthie a friend. Will miss her dearly. But will smile when I think of her often.

  13. Justin Farrar says:

    Your mother was an incredible person. I think my first memory of Ruthie was as a lunch lady at CAES. Ruthie knew every student and made them all feel special. As I got older I knew her through my grandparents and the Chester Legion. She never forgot my name and always made a point to say hi. I really enjoyed her Chester Chatter piece. We will all miss her!

  14. Patrice Fortier says:

    What a wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing.

  15. S Baker says:

    ❤️Godspeed Ruthie. Thank you for your kindnesses over the years!

  16. Nancie Lorenz says:

    What a warm and loving tribute! We are lucky to live in a town where Ruthie ruled! May her spirit sail on to the best new adventures. She deserves it!

  17. Beautiful words written for your mom…I loved our short but ever so sweet conversations with her when I delivered her food…she will be missed terribly.

  18. Kim Forbes Fox says:

    Donna you are as well spoken as your Mom was. She will be missed for many years to come.

  19. Asta spafford says:

    Miss you so much

  20. Suzanne Waldren says:

    So beautifully and lovingly written. It sounds like she was so tenderly loved and held with dignity as she crossed the earthly veil. I used to love it when Ruthie would come and sit at the bar when I was tending bar at the Stonehearth. Always with that infectious smile and stories to tell. She will be missed, but no doubt will be watching out over Chester from her Queenly throne up in the cosmos.

  21. Margie Straub says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Donna. We all felt we knew Ruthie personally and it is comforting to know that she was surrounded by love in her last days. She was a treasure.

  22. Christopher Wallace says:

    Whenever thinking of just what made Chester ‘Chester,’ Ruthie invariably came to mind; she will be missed more than words can express.

  23. Terri McNamara says:

    We can only hope to complete our Life on earth, living as Ruthie did. I always felt grounded after reading her column! Very nice tribute,Donna.

  24. A wonderful tribute to your Mom.

  25. Arlene Mutschler says:

    What a wonderful tribute. She is one of a kind. I was privileged to know your mom. After telling her my dog did a reading program at the library in Chester, she came and took pictures and did a story on Oreo. I still have the article! Many times when I was (still) able to pet therapy visit at the rehab center in Springfield, during her long stay there, I would visit with her Leaving her visit to the end, so I could sit a spell with her. The world was lucky to have had her!! RIP>

  26. Graham Nye says:

    A wonderrful tribute to your mom, Donna!!

  27. I just want you to know how much I enjoyed your mom’s writings in the Chester Chatter. She wrote in an upbeat way and made me feel good. You have your mom’s talent for writing.

  28. Rosann Sexton says:

    Donna, please extend my condolences to your entire family. I will miss Ruthie’s columns.

  29. Julie Charlton says:

    Smiling and sobbing as I read this tribute to a phenomenal woman that I am grateful to have known. Thank you Donna for sharing.❤❤❤

  30. Janet Nelson says:

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us Donna. Your mother was an amazing woman
    who touched so many lives.

  31. Donna whitnay says:

    A wonderfully written tribute to the queen bee Donna. She was one of a kind for sure. Shared so many memorable times with that girl and family. She was the queen of hearts..and she loved her cards!!!!! RIP

  32. Luanne Bailey says:

    Although I left Chester more than 35 years ago, I still remember “Ruthie” well. Such a sweet, kind lady. She will be missed by so many. What a wonderful tribute to her life.