Ruth McCausland passes at 101

South Beach icon

By Kat Bryant

The Daily World

South Beach icon Ruth McCausland died in the early morning of Sept. 7 in Olympia. She was 101.

Ruth and Bob, her husband of 65 years, lived in Tokeland for 27 years before moving to Olympia in 2006. Bob, a talented artist known for his editorial cartoons for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Daily World, died shortly after that move at age 90.

In 1999, the McCauslands were named by The Daily World as Citizens of the Year; and in 2004, they were named Historians of the Year by the Aberdeen Museum of History.

“Not only was Ruth McCausland one of the nicest people on the planet, she was a first-rate historian,” said John C. Hughes, former editor and publisher of The Daily World. “Also, it was Ruth who urged her amazing husband to keep cartooning when they moved to Tokeland — ‘the center of the universe,’ as Bob used to say. His Sunday cartoon became one of the highlights of the week for thousands of our readers.”

The McCauslands were founding members of the Westport-South Beach Historical Society. McCausland Hall at the Westport Maritime Museum is named after them. Both also volunteered their time and efforts at the Aberdeen Museum of History for many years.

“In my role with the society, I regularly see the work Ruth put in over the years — from the research she collected for her books and articles, (which) we now hold in archive, to her energy that made volunteering fun for so many,” said John Shaw, executive director of the South Beach Historical Society. “She really was the definition of that ‘glue person’ for so many.”

Ruth is the author of “Washington’s Westport,” a comprehensive local history published in 1998 and illustrated by her husband. She also wrote “They Came By Sea: Historic Grays Harbor Watercraft,” “Weekenders’ Island” and a couple of coastal birding guides, which actually were compilations of the birding columns she wrote for the South Beach Bulletin. In addition, she was co-editor of the Pacific County Historical Society’s quarterly publication, The Sou’wester.

She was an avid birder. For decades, her husband carved and painted Pacific Northwest birds and presented them to her on her birthdays and other occasions. Those wooden miniatures have been on display at the Westport Maritime Museum for the past few years.

“Ruth would visit a couple times a year to check up on us” at the museum, said Shaw. “She would draw people in like a magnet; she would arrive, and soon a crowd of friends was on hand. It was always so much fun when she was around.”

Plenty of friends and family traveled to Olympia last year to celebrate Ruth’s 100th birthday. Among them was granddaughter Meghan McCausland of Portland, who sat with her long enough to gather information for a complete personal history.

“Ruth was a smart, plucky, driven and capable woman who struggled under the confines of the traditional homemaker role,” she wrote, “but she found ways to assert her own sense of self and independence, working within the limitations of women’s roles. … In addition to motherhood, running the household and managing the finances, she was always sewing, gardening, volunteering. Yet writing was her true occupation.”

Ruth’s health had been deteriorating since COVID-19 restrictions were instituted at her assisted living facility, keeping her from having visitors, according to Meghan. “The isolation was really hard on her,” said Meghan. “She was so social.”

After a series of minor accidents, Ruth was moved to a 24-hour care facility in early August, Meghan said. Then, at about 1 a.m. on Labor Day, she suffered a massive stroke and died.

A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Kat Bryant | The Daily World                                Dozens of miniature birds carved in wood by Bob McCausland for his wife, Ruth, are on display at the Westport Maritime Museum.

Kat Bryant | The Daily World Dozens of miniature birds carved in wood by Bob McCausland for his wife, Ruth, are on display at the Westport Maritime Museum.