Posted Online: Oct. 08, 2012, 9:00 pm

RI arts advocate Katz dies at 95

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Photo:
Ruth Katz
Ruth Evelyn Katz served the Quad-Cities well.

The Rock Island arts advocate died Monday at the age of 95. Her numerous contributions included work with the Quad City Arts Guild, the Rock Island Public Library Board, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and Bethany for Children and Families.

"What sad news," said Kai Swanson, Augustana College's executive assistant to the president. "That's a kind of person -- a leader -- I don't think they make enough of anymore.

"She attended Augustana in the 1930s," Mr. Swanson said. "She was part of a generation that really placed a greater emphasis toward contributing and putting into a community."

Mr. Swanson said Ms. Katz helped bring the Frieze Lecture Series, which combined the Rock Island Public Library and faculty from Augustana College, to the library.

"I blamed her for being one of the great muses of the Quad-Cities," he said. "She spurred people to create and think deeply."

As president of the Rock Island Public Library board of trustees from 1985 to 1987, she was instrumental in remodeling and renovating the building. In 2004, she received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, nominated by former Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert, who said, "Ruth Evelyn is an institution. She truly is the real deal."

Library board president Cindy Lukasik said Ms. Katz was a woman beyond her time.

"She probably could serve as a role model for all of us," Ms. Lukasik said. "She was insightful, incisive and invaluable on the board.

"She could see things clearly and had a good perspective. She understood the value of libraries and the arts in the community to human beings," she said. "You just don't find people like Ruth Evelyn anymore.

"It was a commitment of the heart," Ms. Lukasik said. "I just really liked her."

A Rock Island native, she graduated from Rock Island High School and attended Augustana College before marrying Isador Katz in 1936. He died in 1996 a few months before their 60th wedding anniversary.

Her son, Martin Katz, said his mother believed good fortune required philanthropy.

"She believed money should be used to help the less fortunate to make life's burdens easier," he said.

Quad City Symphony Orchestra board chairman Juliann McHard said Ms. Katz had a "style, grace and sparkle that we all knew and loved."

"Isador and Ruth Evelyn taught many of us how to give of our time and funds to make the community of arts and education better," she said.

Allan Ross, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities for 10 years, said Ms. Katz was not only a big supporter of the Jewish community, but the entire Quad-Cities.

"I dealt with her before I took the federation job," Mr. Ross said. "She was an incredible lady. She supported many charitable organizations and nonprofits. She was very interested in the arts and culture."

Library board trustee Evie White, a former Rock Island City Council member, said Ms. Katz was a true patron of the humanities.

"The library was just an absolute dear, dear love of hers," Ms. White said. "She was extremely active on the library board for many years. I can't tell you all of the different programs.

"If there was an art show, she was there. She was just very cultured, a lovely person."




Remembering Ruth Evelyn Katz

Funeral services for Ruth Evelyn Katze are planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri City Jewish Center, Rock Island.

No visitation is planned. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Bethany Home or a favorite charity.