I write this letter today struggling with sadness, for we have lost a beloved member of our family. Dear, sweet Ruth, my friend, my client, my mentor, recently left us for another place after 90 years of gracing us with her presence.
I met Ruth in 1983, all 4 feet ten inches and 95 pounds of her. She came to see me because she was retiring from her long career as a bookkeeper for a successful insurance agency in town.
Over the years we visited each other on a regular basis, on occasion even sharing a wonderful dinner or lunch she prepared at her home.
My most memorable moment, of which there were many, came during the time known as “Black Monday“, October 19, 1987. That was the day the Dow Jones Industrials crashed, down over 500 points, from 2700 to 2200, all in one day! That would be the equivalent of a free fall in today of nearly 2800 points.
Even though I thought of myself as a grizzled veteran with my seven years of experience in financial services, I found out I was not experienced at all, nor was I prepared for this kind of event.
As I recall I spent most of the morning holding my head in my hands, but finally bucked up enough to do what I knew I had to do.
I picked up the phone and began calling my clients. My plan was to explain that which I did not understand, and reassure those who were almost certainly upset and concerned.
After a number of calls and conversations I finally came to Ruth, because alphabetically she was well down the list. She answered and I began my monologue, but about one minute into it she said, very sharply I might add, “Stephen, stop right there!”
Now the only person who ever called me Stephen was my mother, so naturally this stopped me in my tracks. Ruth went on to tell me she had experienced and lived through a great deal in her life, including the ‘Great Depression’, world war, the Communist and nuclear scare of the 1950’s, massive demonstrations and protests in the 60’s, political upheaval in the 70’s and well, a little old stock market correction in the 1980’s just was not about to unnerve her after the lifetime of events she had experienced.
We talked a bit more then I went on to call the rest of my clients, most certainly in a calmer frame of mind than before my conversation with Ruth.
I have thought about our talk many times since and have come to believe Ruth must have heard the fear and uncertainty in my voice and decided to give me some perspective, which I sorely needed.
I believe to this very day she helped me get over being pulled emotionally one way then another when the markets go into steep decline. I can not say I have overcome it completely, but she helped provide the perspective I so needed, and she unknowingly helped shape how I handle stock market declines, as well as the rest of the unexpected twists and turns in life. I will always be grateful for her wisdom, and her caring.
So now as I say goodbye to our Dear Ruth, although diminutive in stature, she will remain always, a giant in my heart.
Originally written and published by Steve Hood 4/10/2007