Generosity as Justice Making
"My life has had dramatic ups and downs. Having struggled with a hard job teaching in a ghetto, and having been poor once myself, justice demands that I share what I have with others." This was the answer of a generous Unitarian Universalist, Ruth O'Shea, when asked about the creation of her charitable remainder trust.
For more than a decade, Ruth enjoyed steady payments from her trust. She especially enjoyed knowing that upon her death, what remained in the trust would be shared in gifts to her selected good causes - among them Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, ACLU, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
At the UUA Office of Legacy Gifts, we have the privilege of talking to people like Ruth O'Shea- UUs who are making their dreams for our movement a reality by arranging gifts to the Association from their life estates. Although we never met Ruth, we knew of her incredible energy and good will. We've heard it in her writing and in the voices of her family and friends. Ruth's compassion and fervor radiate through it all.
Last spring her close friend, Jean, called Boston to tell us of Ruth's death, at age 85. Jean was kind enough to send a copy of the program for Ruth's memorial service-appropriately titled "a celebration"-and she told us about Ruth's work as a math teacher. She was the recipient of Teacher-of-the-Year and Volunteer-of-the-Year awards in San Mateo County for math continuation in high school, and was also a passionate activist in the right-to-die movement. Last fall, Ruth's son Jok and his wife Kirsten came to Boston and visited the UUA. They repeated how important and satisfying it was to Ruth for have created a legacy that would carry on the work that inspired her life.
Ruth O'Shea found a home for her activist spirit and many friends in the UU Fellowship of Redwood City, CA. She devoted herself to Unitarian Universalism and many, many volunteer projects; and she continued teaching math long after her "retirement." She is remembered by many for her work to desegregate schools in Palo Alto. She tutored dozens who needed her strong support, preparing them for the GRE and funding scholarships. Ruth believed, always, in the value of hard work and the necessity of responding to injustice with action. A pragmatist by nature, Ruth also had a fine sense of humor. At her memorial, her grandson Frank recalled a trip when Ruth, or "Gopa," as she was known to the family, drove their car right onto Pismo Beach for a joyful ride through the surf.
Ruth has touched my life and many others. Her generosity is alive, right here at the UUA where I spend each day. It fuels the work that my coworkers and I want to do-and do well-for our UU congregations and the Association. That's Ruth's legacy to us: her example of hard work done with grit and integrity, and even a little chutzpah. She answered the call of justice. May we all respond to that call as eagerly and generously as Ruth O'Shea did
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.