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Ruth R. Martin

October 27, 1930 ~ March 24, 2024 (age 93) 93 Years Old

Ruth Martin Obituary

Ruth R. Martin, age 93, of Hartford, social worker, oral historian, author and professor emerita at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, passed away at her home Sunday evening (March 24) after a long illness. 

Born in Smoaks, South Carolina in 1930, Ruth traveled far beyond the segregated rural lowcountry of her beginnings.  Her love for learning took her from a two-room schoolhouse to earning the highest degree in academia, a doctorate. She traveled around the world for work and pleasure, interviewing anti-apartheid activists in Johannesburg with University of Connecticut colleagues, visiting the Great Wall and Great Pyramid with family, traveling through Europe and the Caribbean, and throughout much of this country. 

Ruth’s pioneering work introducing oral history to social workers as a method for studying disempowered and marginalized groups influenced many. In February 2023, The Department of Social Work Program at Southern Connecticut State University honored her with a celebration of her work, noting the importance of her textbook (Oral History in Social Work) and a newly published memoir (Beatrice’s Ledger: Coming of Age in the Jim Crow South), co-authored with her eldest daughter, Vivian B. Martin.

The youngest of four children from the marriage of Joe and Beatrice Hodges Robinson, she grew up with three older siblings from her father’s first marriage, which ended with the death of his wife. Ruth benefitted from the family and church community’s emphasis on faith and education. Although there was not much educational opportunity for Blacks in Smoaks beyond ninth grade, she managed to attend high schools for Blacks away from home elsewhere in the state, at Richard Carroll Memorial in Bamberg for 10th grade, Voorhees in Denmark for 11th grade, and when that got too costly, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, for 12th grade.  She graduated from Tuskegee Institute with a bachelor’s degree, a dream of hers growing up, in 1955. Marriage to a career Coast Guardsman, Rutrell Martin, from nearby Cottageville, SC, took her from New York City to Seattle and then to Connecticut, eventually giving birth to six children. She finessed the role of military wife, responsible for keeping everything running when the ship was out. A welfare caseworker while living in New York and Seattle, she spent a decade with Groton Public Schools after earning her master’s in social work at the University of Connecticut in 1970. She earned a doctorate at the University of Connecticut School of Education in 1980, prior to launching a career in academia, first as a professor of social work at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and then as a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, where she retired as an associate dean in 1999.

Her sense of fun and adventure was well-known. For several years she hosted a one-man show of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, in the family home in Hartford’s West End. The venue allowed the actor to develop a show that became a hit for the last several years at the Merchant’s House Museum in Manhattan. Prior to the pandemic and some health issues, she enjoyed doing water aerobics as part of a group of women at Cornerstone in West Hartford.

She was preceded in death by her parents and all six siblings: Woodrow and Joe Robinson, Jr., Mattie Mae Powell, Henrietta, Madison, and Fred Douglas Robinson. Her husband, Rutrell, died in 2005. She is survived by six children of whom she was proud: Vivian B. Martin, Valerie R. Martin, Maxine C. Martin, of Hartford, Anthony F. Martin, of South Hadley, MA and Hartford, Sonya L. Bornheimer (Michael) of Manhattan, and Rutrell Yasin (Khadija), of Woodbridge, VA. Also surviving are five grandchildren: Tauheeda Yasin (Aydin Ayal), Woodbridge, VA, Zakiyyah Yasin (Derek Bell), Bronx, NY, and Yusuf Yasin, Fairfax, VA, Nusaybah and Sumayyah Yasin, Woodbridge, VA; great grandchildren, Rahan Chambers, Bronx, NY, Nisanur and Hiranur Ayal, Woodbridge VA; and numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and cousins. She was always grateful that three daughters of her eldest sister Mattie Mae came to live with the family at various times to help with childcare. Cornelia Martin of Walterboro, SC., her sister-in-law, knew where to find the pork treat that lifted her spirits in the last years. Longtime friends James and Marguerite Mitchell of Mystic added special pleasure when they joined the family on cruise vacations even after Ruth lost her eyesight and was in a wheelchair.

The family thanks Dr. Jonathan H. Tress, her primary physician, for his attentiveness and extra care, including house calls, and Dr. Robert S. Dicks, her geriatrician, for his sensitivity to the needs of the elderly patient. We thank Ellie Espada, home health aide with Masonicare, for coming into our home and taking such good care of Mom for three and a half years.  We also thank Tosranie Roopnarine for her work on our team. Visits from former friend and colleague Edna Comer and check-ins from friends from Seattle to Fort Meyers, FL were appreciated. It was a blessing being able to take care of Mom in the home these last several years. Thank you all for helping us do that.

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Public Viewing
April 2, 2024

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Stephens Funeral Home
1767 Jefferies Hwy.
Walterboro, SC 29488

Celebration of Life
April 3, 2024

1:00 PM
Lovely Hill Missionary Baptist Church
408 Augusta Highway
Smoaks, SC 29481

Video is available for this event


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