Mary Ruth Harsha, a highly regarded 3M lawyer, dedicated mother of six, caring community volunteer, activist, educator and reader, died Tuesday, April 30, 2013.
Mary Ruth’s energy, sharp intellect, infectious enthusiasm and determination led to enormous achievements despite significant challenges.
Mary Ruth was 47 when her husband, Paul, died of cancer. Her children’s ages then ranged from 8 through 24. She made a courageous decision to sell the family home in Midland, Michigan and enroll in law school at the University of Michigan.
Becoming a lawyer was a lifelong dream, and one she left behind after completing her first year of law school at U-M in 1947. She married her college sweetheart, Paul, and began to raise her family. She also began extensive community involvement that continued throughout her life. Although 27 years separated her first and second year of law school, she ultimately graduated at age 50 and began a new career as corporate lawyer for 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She worked at 3M for the next 18 years as a specialist in consumer advertising and packaging while continuing to raise her family. She never lost a case and was promoted to senior attorney. She also served as a loaned executive to United Way, was on the board of the Girl Scouts Council of the St. Croix Valley, St. Olaf’s Catholic Church advisory council, and was active in the Minnesota Bar Association.
She was especially proud of her association with Radio Talking Book news program and read the newspaper to blind listeners for over 15 years. She also volunteered at Interact Center, a theater focusing on opportunities for those who are physically or intellectually challenged.
She simply loved being engaged. She was a gifted cook. She was an avid and passionate speed reader who could finish long, complex novels in a day. She immersed herself in newspapers, magazines and academic journals and never tired of discussing politics, current issues and policy. She loved opera, ballet, classical music and theater and relished attending performances whenever possible.
And she loved family. She raised five daughters and a son and was deeply involved in their activities and schools, whether driving her two oldest daughters to figure skating performances or encouraging her youngest to excel at the Children’s Theater Company Conservatory School. She encouraged each to take a range of lessons and maintain interests in music, drama, nature and science.
Mary Ruth Levy was born in Alexandria, La. on Aug. 30, 1926. Her father, a doctor and psychologist, became medical director of the Veteran’s Hospital in Canadaigua, NY and the Levy family lived on the grounds of what is now Sonnenberg Gardens. She enrolled at U-M and met her husband while both worked as reporters and editors at the U-M student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. She graduated with a Phi Beta Kappa honorary degree. They married in 1948 and Paul joined the Times Herald in Port Huron as a reporter and later became state editor at The Detroit News.
They moved to Midland in 1956, where Paul joined Dow Chemical’s Communications Department. Mary Ruth noted the lack of non-religious nursery schools in the community and believed strongly in the benefit of regular pre-school programs. She helped found and develop a cooperative nursery, Chippewa Nursery School, in 1962.
As her children grew, she applied and received an award from the American Association of University Women to return to U-M for her master’s degree. With her husband’s full support, she commuted 120 miles twice weekly from Midland to Ann Arbor and completed her master’s in 1969 in American Studies.
She soon joined Saginaw Valley State University as registrar and overhauled and streamlined the registration process. An article on her work there in 1975 described her as a caring person who continuously focused on improvement and innovation.
Paul battled cancer on and off for four years. When he died in 1974, she made the hardest decision of her life and left Saginaw Valley to move back to Ann Arbor for law school with her three youngest children. All six children were in the auditorium two years later on commencement day when she proudly received her Doctor of Jurisprudence.
She is survived by her five daughters, son, eight grandchildren and a sister, Pauline Heil. Her children include: Mary Ruth Harsha of Minneapolis; Ann Herzog Harsha of Novi, Michigan; Joan (Jim) Pinamont of Denver; Jennifer (Stan) Carroll of Silver Spring, MD; Paul (Jay Lordan) Harsha of Cambridge, Mass; Amy (Jim) Aarsvold of Little Canada, MN. Her grandchildren are Matthew (Natalie) and Alex (Beth) Harsha-Strong, Curtis Herzog, Catherine and Shannon Carroll, Madeline Daniels and Bethany and Hayley Aarsvold.
Mass of Christian Burial Friday, May 3rd ~ 2:00 PM at Gill Brothers Funeral Home, 5801 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN. A private burial will be held in Midland Cemetery, Midland, MI. Visitation Thursday 5-8 pm at Gill Brothers and also one hour prior to mass. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Radio Talking Book, State Services for the Blind ~ 2200 University Ave. W. Suite 240, St. Paul, MN 55114
MINNEAPOLIS, MN 612 861 6088