Obituary: Ruby Kelley Johnson

Ruby Kelley Johnson, lifelong advocate for Newtown, dies at the age of 84.

Ruby Kelley Johnson, of Sandy Hook, loving wife and mother, devoted friend and lifelong advocate for Newtown, passed away Feb. 16, 2012, at Danbury Hospital, with her family by her side.

Born in Houston, Texas on Sept. 7, 1928, Ruby spent her youth in San Antonio, Texas. An accomplished equestrienne, Ruby won the New England Championship for Jumping in Freiberg, Maine.  Ruby’s love of travel took her to Egypt, Russia, and Europe as well as a cross-country trip with the family in a Winnebago to Yellowstone.

Ruby pursued her education with the tenacity that would become her trademark. She graduated from Texas Women’s College in 1949 with a double major in English and History, and earned her Ph.D. from New York University in Linguistics in 1966. Ruby became a leader in education. She served on several boards such as the Commission of English Language, published two texts and numerous articles, and was asked to demonstrate the effectiveness of Inductive Teaching in Linguistics before the National Council of English Teachers in Washington, DC.

It was Ruby’s passion for education and the potential that she saw in every individual that guided her to serve on Newtown’s Board of Education. During her tenure, Ruby advocated for: the building of Head O’ Meadow Elementary School, the addition of dinosaur fossil tracks that once roamed Connecticut to Sandy Hook Elementary School’s courtyard, the addition of Calculus and Computer Science to the high school curriculum, and the addition of a swimming pool to Newtown High School. She was instrumental in the formation of the Newtown High School girls’ soccer team in 1983.

A staunch advocate for those with disabilities, Ruby, was instrumental in the installation of telecoil hearing loops in Newtown’s Municipal Building, Newtown Middle School and High School.  Ruby helped establish The Friends of Fairfield Hills and served as a member of the Legislative Council. A visionary who saw the wisdom in strategic planning, she was a respected voice at numerous board and committee meetings.

Ruby is survived by her husband of 45 years, Kenneth H. Johnson, daughters Kelley T. Johnson of San Jose, California and Joan D. Johnson, son-in-law Edwin Kuo, and grandson, Alex Kuo of Pleasantville, New York.

The family will receive friends and family at Honan Funeral Home, 58 Main Street, Newtown, from 3 pm to 6 pm on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012. 

Memorial services will be held at the Newtown United Methodist Church, 92 Church Hill Road, Sandy Hook, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, at 11 am, with a reception following in the church’s lower-level meeting room.  In honor of Ruby’s public service, the memorial service will include “public participation.”  The family invites attendees to share a personal story of Ruby. 

In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions be made to the Ruby K. Johnson Memorial Scholarship, Newtown Scholarship Association Inc., PO Box 302, Newtown, CT 06470.

KMayer February 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Such very sad news for our town. An amazing, brilliant woman who inspired and engaged everyone in her path. Newtown will never be the same.
Jim Gaston February 18, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I am pleased to say that I met Ruby many times. I remember her visits to the Board of Finance where she advocated for her passions. In short, she saw importance in education, open space at Fairfield Hills, and advocacy of the hearing impaired. She made a difference. I agreed with much of what she espoused, I disagree with a few other aspects, but the fact of the matter is, Ruby's challenges made Newtown a better place. God bless you...and thank you, Ruby.
Jim Gaston February 18, 2012 at 04:55 AM
And peace to the Johnson family.
Karen C. Pierce February 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Ruby had what my family called "the Touch"....she had the ability to meet a complete stranger and within minutes make them feel they were talking to a life long friend.We are better people, neighbors and community because she touched our lives,
Ester Nichols February 18, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Ruby has been our life line with saving the grounds at Farifield Hills. She will be missed so much. Hopefully someone will try to fill her shoes
David Kingsley February 18, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I remember Ruby as a great researcher and a champion of common sense. She clearly loved Newtown and her insight and dedication will be missed greatly.
Donna Monteleone Randle February 18, 2012 at 01:31 PM
She was a rare, shining star who I was honored to call my friend. Ruby accomplished things that women of her generation only dreamed of. She never let her hearing impediment slow her down either. Ruby's life must be celebrated for all that she achieved. Newtown and the world are a better place because of her. God bless Ruby and her family. May she rest in peace...
Al(bert) Roznicki February 18, 2012 at 05:43 PM
My friend. She could advocate for a cause, organize the cause, enlist people to enthusiastically support the cause, encourage our officials to consider the cause and provide significant amounts of information about the cause so that supporters had little to do, but read about the cause. A unique woman with a tremendous love for the welfare of people. While some may not have agreed with her all the time, none could challenge her purpose. She loved Newtown and wanted the best for our people. Many are hoping that someone will take her place, but I contend that rarely does a woman with such passion for the welfare of others come our way. To say "she will be missed" does not adequately express the intention of these words. My family and I bid Ruby a fond farewell on her new journey. We can expect that Heaven will be organized shortly.
Melissa Pilchard February 18, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Melissa Pilchard Ruby was a great friend and co-conspiritor on many projects. The most lasting one was when Ruby, Zita McMahon and I took it upon ourselves to visit every OPEN schoop within 75 miles. We then wrote a lengthy report on the false premise of open schools and presented same to the Board of Ed. At 11 PM the Board called te architect and told him that the totally open design of Head O'Meadow was cancelled. The school was still built with the possibility of an open concept but with provision for wall - which I hasten to add- were subsequently all built.. Yes, Ruby made a great mark on Newtown and on all of us priviledged to know her. She will be greatly missed !
Maria Horvath February 18, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Thank you Mrs. Johnson for everything you have done for the children and the community of Newtown.
Deborra Zukowski February 19, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Ruby was one who truly exemplified a "well-lived life." She was a tenacious advocate, with no self-interest, for the well being of our community. Her goals, that information is core to decision making and the voice of the people should be listened to, will hopefully be met by current and future social and civic leaders. I stand in awe. Farewell, remarkable woman. Good bye, Ruby.
PLundquist February 19, 2012 at 01:23 AM
It has been our great good fortune, as a community, to have had Ruby lead by example and demonstrate so consistently how to make a difference. How to challenge the status quo, how to champion a vision for a better Newtown, and how to step up to the plate time and time again to play an active role in serving our community... not to suit her own needs and preferences, but simply to help to leave Newtown a better place than when she got here. She made personal connections with so many of us... as mentor, educator, friend, or thorn in the side ;-) She led as an elected official, and later helped keep town leaders on their toes as a passionate, informed observer. To anyone who knew her, or anyone who is just learning a bit more about her these past few days, she leaves us each asking ourselves, “Can I do a bit more?” She leaves a legacy of volunteerism that we all can aspire to. Thanks, Ruby.
Desiree Galassi February 19, 2012 at 02:34 AM
I am proud to call Ruby my mentor in education and advocacy for children. She represented for me the quintessential teacher; gentle in her instruction, firm and decisive when correction was required. I remember when we ran for office together 5 years ago. She said, "You young ones go! You are the future leaders!" But she was the one from whom we all drew the courage and wisdom. She was the leader. I will miss you, Ruby. You are the gem your name represents.
Po Murray February 19, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Newtown has been fortunate to have such a wonderful visionary woman who advocated for the children and the people of Newtown for so long. She had more perseverance and endurance than anyone I have ever met. There is no such thing as apathy in Ruby's world. We need more people like Ruby in Newtown and in the world. Ruby inspired me to advocate for the things I believe in and she made me a better person. Rest in Peace Ruby! I will miss you very much.
Donald H. Ramsey February 19, 2012 at 06:26 PM
As a Teacher in Newtown, I felt well cared for by Ruby Johnson. As a "Matriarch" figure for our town, Ruby inspired me with all the loyalty and good will that makes a community thrive. May God Bless Ruby's family... For surely they are not alone in missing this wonderful gifted person!
Kevin Fitzgerald February 19, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Inside and outside this community, Ruby is our hero. She is that large envelope that arrives at home full of marked-up articles and meeting minutes reminding you that there is more work to do on a particular community issue. She is that wink one gets from across the meeting room regardless of your politics, thanking you for getting up to speak in public. At home, Ruby is a role model just as much for my wife and I as she is for our children, and our daughter in particular. We are, Newtown is and this world is better for knowing her. I do not know what heaven is really like, but now that Ruby has arrived, I do hope its affairs are in order. Ruby we love you and we will miss you always.
Douglas Brennan February 19, 2012 at 11:05 PM
So true and very insightful. Thank you.
Douglas Brennan February 19, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Thank you Al. So great to see you and your wife and some of the many others whose lives she touched.
Shannon Hawkins February 07, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Dr. Ruby Johnson was a wonderful person. She used her strong, positive presence to do so much to help others. On the public level she used her gift to write and communicate with eloquence to advocate for those who did not have a voice. I will never forget that she fought for funding for girls’ sports. I wish I knew more about the other causes (and I’m sure there were many) to which she had devoted her time and effort. She truly used her abilities to persuade others for the betterment of us all. On a personal level, she always had a smile, inspiring words, and time to encourage a young girl who was struggling in school and teenage issues. I can still see her warm smile and hear her inspiring, witty, and thoughtful comments! What a gift it was to spend time with her! I want to go back to Maine with her and her family and listen to one of her stories. I wish I could thank her for her example, leadership, and mentoring. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her.


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