Featured image: Gordon Harris and Ruth Strachan, photo courtesy of the Ipswich Local News, 2017.
It was with great sadness that we learned today about the sudden passing of Ruth Strachan, a member of the Ipswich Historical Commission and the Architectural Preservation District Commission for several years. I met Ruth seven years ago as I strolled along Summer Street where she was tending her flowers. We immediately fell into a conversation about historic houses.
I later learned that a survey of historic buildings undertaken in 1978 by Ruth was the basis for listing the Marblehead Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. In 1999, the Marblehead Board of Selectman refused to accept her resignation letter as Chairwoman of the Old and Historic Districts Commission and assigned the Chair to persuade Ruth to stay. She eventually moved to Ipswich to live closer to her family.
When I asked Ruth if she would consider joining the Ipswich Historical Commission, she agreed to do so, but after spending two decades on the Marblehead Commission, she preferred to remain an alternate member on ours. Sometimes it seemed like every house, board and window was historic to Ruth, and sometimes when we allowed a demolition request to go forward, hers was the lone dissenting voice. Even when we came to different conclusions, her friendship and mentoring was very special to me. Ruth will be truly missed. —Gordon Harris
Comment from Peter Bubriski:
“Every town should be so lucky to have a Ruth Strachan. Delighted by the historic artifacts of the buildings around her, intrigued by the characters who built them , knowledgeable about EVERY aspect of historic preservation from her voracious reading, passionately devoted to meeting new people, unstintingly warm and humorous, and fierce in her advocacy for things she believed in–Ruth was delightful, charming and a pistol! The more one got to know her the more one learned of the extraordinary breadth of her experience.
Early in her career she worked at Polaroid for Edwin Land, she counseled returning Iraq war vets with PTSD as a licensed social worker, she taught windsurfing to the adventurous in Marblehead, she gardened with a skill and knowledge that put many of us garden aficionados to shame, and she raised a beautiful family.
Ruth was also the perpetual student; there was never anything that she wasn’t game to learn more about. In her inimitable way, she was a joyous, critical, generous and shining force of nature. I miss her deeply.” —Peter Bubriski