Many years back and very early in my career, my mentor, Bill Mefford, told me about an organization for whom one of his friends was looking for a public relations contractor. Long story short, that woman was Ruth Voss and the organization that became my first long term PR client is Cincinnati nonprofit organization, Lighthouse Youth Services.
Ruth was the impetus for Lighthouse’s existence. (One of my close friends, Connie Dreyfuss, was a friend of Ruth’s and also one of the founding board members of Lighthouse.) I never had the fortune of meeting Ruth but from what I’ve learned about her, she was an incredible woman, mother, wife, and advocate.
Recently I’ve come to know one of Ruth’s sons, Peter, and through him I’m learning more about this woman whose impact is touching the lives of thousands of young people.
It was in 1971 when Ruth, then the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Teen-ager editor and mother of eight, received an urgent invitation to visit with President Nixon in the oval office of the White House. The President was looking for her ideas on getting youth involved in the country’s affairs. As can happen when one begins talking about their passion, that conversation quickly became pointed toward a Cincinnati half way house for girls that was just opening.
Ruth sat beside our country’s leader and told him the story of how she and a group of volunteers had tirelessly worked for four years to get that project off the ground, and how desperately short they were of operating funds. President Nixon looked her in the eyes and asked her how much she needed. “$30,000,” was her answer. “I’ll give you $50,000,” he told her.
That check led to Cincinnati’s New Life for Girls that ultimately became Lighthouse Youth Services, and that $50,000 was its first year’s budget. Peter told me how that allowed them to buy two homes – one in Madisonville and one on Ezzard Charles Drive. Ruth was a sorority sister of Marge Schott, whom also became a donor. One of those homes was names after the Reds’ former owner.
Peter tears up when he talks about his relationship with his mother. An only child, her parents were immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island and made a home in Cincinnati. She and her husband, Peter’s father, met on a blind date when they were attending University of Cincinnati. When they married, Ruth wanted a large family and was a loving role model to her children. Her strong heart for kids led to her work at the Enquirer, and her hosting events for and coaching young writers.
He shared with me a prose he wrote as a gift for his mother on her first birthday after his dad’s passing.
“ Mom cherished this gift with all her heart, and it remains on display in my home; always!,” Peter said, adding, “When my wife & I were dating, she was told by her ObGyn MD she would never have biological kids. We fooled science and were blessed with Katie & Bobby, two years apart. We NEVER take our children for granted; nor one another, as Gloria (his wife) nearly expired delivering Bobby!”
Peter told me if I had known his mother, I would have no doubt been her friend and I can absolutely see that. I wish I had had the opportunity to have met the woman who set my career path in motion but I am glad to know her son. Ruth’s impact lives on.