Celebrating the life of Ruth “Ditty” Perry
CARBONDALE — Well over 300 people gathered Monday to pay their respects to Ruth Brown Perry, a Roaring Fork Valley icon and matriarch of one of the area’s longest-established families.
Perry, known to her friends as “Ditty” and to her many descendents as “Gammy,” died peacefully in her Carbondale home on March 24 at the age of 96.
Her service packed the Sanctuary at the Orchard nearly to the brim with equal parts suits and Stetsons, and lined Snowmass Avenue with cars as if for a fireworks show. The song-filled ceremony, titled “The Abundant Life” after her two-part book, painted a bittersweet picture of a life well lived.
“It’s an apt title because she lived with such abundance, vitality and energy to her last moment,” said Pastor Bruce Gledhill.
Glendhill didn’t have to look far for evidence of Perry’s enduring faith.
In addition to quoting several passages from her book, he read an excerpt of a letter of application to Cattlemen for Christ.
“It doesn’t mean all is easy or simple, but it does mean we have the Lord’s love and strength to cope,” she wrote.
The daughter of David Robinson Crocker Brown and Ruth McNutt Brown, Perry spent her childhood summers at the family home above Hallam Lake and her winters in Denver. She married her lifelong childhood friend Robert “Bob” Perry in 1940. The next year, they moved to Carbondale and started the Mount Sopris Hereford Ranch, where they and their seven children and ranched for more than 65 years before Bob’s death in 2006.
She remained active in her community, organizing Red Hat launches, Bible study, Scrabble nights and tooling through town on her tricycle. She is survived by six of her children, 26 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren.
Eleanor Perry described her grandmother as her “favorite historian.”
“She connected us to our ancestors,” she said. “Gammy was a pistol and we all loved her for it.”
Katie Fales retold the story of her grandmother’s attempt to prepare dinner shortly after her marriage. She couldn’t light the coal-fire stove and had only raw chicken to show for her efforts when her husband returned hours later. Undaunted, Perry became an enthusiastic cook and hostess and, by Fales’ estimate, prepared upwards of 71,000 meals for family and friends between 1941 and 2006.
Will Perry recalled his mother bundling a bunch of kids into an old Dodge Power Wagon for a trip over Schofield Pass to meet a friend for a picnic. An electrical fire prompted emergency repair just below the top. She made it to her destination but decided to take the long way home. When a cousin objected that he needed to be home that night, she encouraged Will to walk back to Marble with him.
“She gave us a lot of freedom,” he chuckled.
Roz Turnbull addressed her mother directly midway through the ceremony.
“You lived with such enthusiasm and zest,” she said. “You were always a definite person. There was no doubt about your belief and opinions, but you didn’t tie your love to whether we agreed with you.”
“You often said that every person’s life has a purpose and touches those around you. You touched everyone you met and your ripples of love have spread far and wide,” she added. “So many respect, admire, and love you.”
In the end, Perry had any number of lessons for those she left behind.
There’s her two-part book drawing from history and proverbs.
There’s the modified message on a birthday card to one of her grandchildren: “We have inherited the Earth from our Father to look after it, and we want our children to do the same.”
Or perhaps the phrase repeatedly cited as her words to live by: “You start from where you are and you do your best from there.”
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