Ruth Ann Anderson Barry

Karen and “Annie Ruthie” 1958

Ruth Anderson was born on March 13, 1928.  She was the fourth child of Clarence Anderson and Anna Pavlosk.  Aunt Ruth, (“Annie Ruth” my toddler version) was my godmother, and my favorite aunt growing up. I saw her every couple of months when my parents made trips to Elizabeth for shopping and visits.  Those trips always included a stop to her apartment in 331 Elmora Avenue, in the Elmora section of Elizabeth.

The visits had a predictable routine.  My sister and I would arrive, drop our coats, and run down the hall to visit “Aunt Char” and see her fish tanks. We’d play with our cousin, Kathleen.  The doors on the apartment doors were open for kids to run in and out.  Who leaves their doors open anymore? What a sad reflection on modern “life.”

Towards five or six o’clock Aunt Ruth would cook dinner.  I loved her spaghetti and meatballs.  I also loved her shredded parmesan cheese for a topping. At home we only had Kraft grated cheese which wasn’t as good; it didn’t melt on top of hot tomato sauce.  At some point before dinner, Dad would be sent to fish her husband, Walter Barry, out of a neighborhood tavern.  Sometimes, Dad wouldn’t come back, and both needed to get retrieved.

In addition to the shredded parm, Aunt Ruth had another level of sophistication that I didn’t experience at home: very tall Pilsner beer glasses, and a contoured white lounge chair in the living room.  I loved to lie on it, and watch the grown-ups talk, yell and fight. I would sometimes be joined by Dusty, their chihuahua, in retreat from the fray.

Mom, Sharon holding Patty, Karen, Aunt Ruth, Kathleen

A smell I will forever associate with Elizabeth and growing up is Rheingold beer: golden Rheingold beer in the tall Pilsner glasses.  I used to take sips. It was especially good if the adults sent out for pizzas instead of cooking.  I can still remember the Rheingold jingle:

My beer is Rheingold, the dry beer.   Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer.   It’s not bitter, not sweet, it’s the dry flavored treat.       Won’t you try extra dry Rheingold beer?

After I went off to college, married and moved away, I lost touch with Aunt Ruth.  She had some major blow-out with my mother and cut off contact. I called her once at work.  She was civil, but unpleasant. I never called again. I feel badly that call is my last memory of her.  I know now that life had wounded and disappointed her many, many times and scars are painful.  As adults, many Andersons opted for limited or no contact with each other as a form of pain management.

Aunt Ruth spent most of her life in Elizabeth, NJ; in Elmora or down in the Port where she was born.  After a horrific foster home experience, Ruth Anderson went to live with her aunt Mary and grandfather, Frank Pavlosk in Roselle Park.  After she married, she went back to Elizabeth for another 40 years.  After Uncle Walter died in 1986, Aunt Ruth moved to Garwood, and then Cranford for the last four years of her life.  She died on October 27, 2007 at the age of 79.  She’s buried in St. Gertrude’s Cemetery in Colonia, New Jersey.  She left two daughters, Kathy and Patty, and several grandchildren.  Her obituary noted that she had performed the opening song, “Willkommen,” at the Cranford Lincoln Senior Apartments musical revue, “Razzle Dazzle:”

Willkommen, bienvenu, welcome!   Im Caberet, au Cabaret, to Cabaret.   Leave your troubles outside!   So, life is disappointing? Err!? Forget it!  We have no troubles here!  Life is beautiful.

“Willkommen” was a great song for her: German heritage, always welcoming.  I hope in the last part of her life she was able to leave her troubles outside and enjoy her daughters and grandchildren. And herself.




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By Karen