Ruth Donovan Ruth

Ruth Donovan Ruth

Ruth Donovan Ruth, a pediatrician and former Scarsdale resident, died peacefully at her home in Rye, N.Y. on July 29, 2022, surrounded by her family. She was 98 years old. 

Mom was born on May 12, 1924 to Katherine and Timothy Donovan, the youngest of four children from a close-knit American Irish family in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In 1945 she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and math from The Notre Dame College of Maryland, then decided to become a physician, with the enthusiastic support of her parents. Mom received her medical degree in 1949 from the Long Island School of Medicine, known today as the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Following an internship at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, Mom completed her residency in pediatrics at Columbia-Presbyterian Babies Hospital in Manhattan and entered private practice with Dr. Lillian Dooher in East Williston, N.Y.

In 1956, Mom went on a first date with Joseph Ruth, a civil engineer and widower with three children: Joe, Jack and Cathy. She recalled that the thought crossed her mind after their date that his last name might present a challenge should a relationship progress to marriage. Perhaps it would be better to introduce him to her college friend Alice instead. After their second date, however, she decided she might like to keep him for herself.

The couple married in 1957, and “Ruth Ruth” she became, moving to live with Joe and his family in Eastchester N.Y. Over the next decade the couple had four more children: Mary, Anne, Julie and Tim. The Ruth family moved to Scarsdale in 1967, and spent every summer in Sag Harbor, N.Y. our father’s hometown.

As a physician, Mom was always known professionally as Dr. Donovan, a loving tribute to the parents who financed her medical school education.

When her youngest child, Tim, entered first grade in 1971, Mom embarked on a rewarding new professional chapter, obtaining a fellowship to specialize in the diagnosis and care of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  She began working with Dr. Margaret Giannini, founder of the Mental Retardation Institute (MRI) in Manhattan, one of the first clinics in the U.S. devoted exclusively to serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and providing support to their families. 

In 1972 Dr. Giannini asked Mom to direct MRI’s outpatient department at its new campus at Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., part of what is known today as the Westchester Institute for Human Development. Mom agreed, provided that she could still see patients every day. 

For more than 15 years Mom led a first-rate team at MRI in partnership with Dr. Elinor Binnebosel, using Dr. Giannini’s ground-breaking, multi-disciplinary model to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services, as well as a full range of medical services, education and social services to individuals with special needs and their families.

After the death of her beloved husband Joe in 1974, Mom lovingly completed the responsibilities of raising their four children as a single parent. 

In 1996, Mom was among the first wave of retirees to move to Sterling Park, the independent living section of The Osborn in Rye, where she formed many cherished friendships, enjoyed a broad range of activities, and kept a social calendar that was the envy of her children.

Mom was an active parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Scarsdale for 40 years, then a parishioner at The Church of Resurrection in Rye for the remainder of her life.

She is survived by her daughters Mary, Anne and Julie; her son Tim and his wife Christina; and her grandchildren, Natalie and Joseph. Funeral services were held Aug. 5 at The Church of the Resurrection.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate it if donations could be made in Mom's memory to Doctors Without Borders.

To view her complete obituary, please visit


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