Wednesday, March 13, 2002/lk
""If you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves," Ruth Jackson Cody used to tell her students at Park Street School, where the Children's Park now sits. She passed on a lot of other sound advice to her fourth graders at the school where she taught in the late 1950s and '60s, but the thing she did that perhaps had the most impact was never spoken of at all -- at least not to them.
"Ruth saw the need for some of the kids to have warm clothing when she was on playground duty," says Fran Cody, Ruth's sister-in-law. Even after she retired from teaching and helped her husband, Maynard, run their restaurant, The Snack Bar (now Carolyn's), Ruth was on the lookout for kids in need.
"Ruth often took the side of the underprivileged," Fran says.
Ruth also had practiced what she preached and watched her own pennies, so that by the time she died in 1976 she left a considerable estate, including a fund to provide warm clothes to needy school children in the community.
In her will, Ruth left specific instructions for Fran -- who taught at Hood River Valley High School -- and another teacher friend.
"She requested that (we) watch for children that were not clothed warmly in the winter, who did not have shoes," Fran says. "We were to take money and give it out to them as we saw fit." That's exactly what happened for many years. But Fran retired from teaching and had less and less contact with the school community. She tried to let school principals know the fund was available, but eventually it went untouched for long periods of time.
"I became a snowbird, and the fund was difficult to administer," Fran says.
When the Gorge Community Foundation got off the ground, Fran knew it was the perfect way to continue Ruth's legacy.
The Ruth Jackson Cody Fund is set up as a "field of interest" fund specifically to help needy children. It's primarily for kids who need warm clothing, but can also be used for eye care and even dentistry for kids whose families can't afford it.
"The fund is set up so that teachers who see this in the schools can apply to the foundation for grants," Fran says. "There's a policy in place so we believe it will be fair and available to any child in the county who is referred by teachers and others who see it." Fran plans to write a letter to all the schools in the county to inform them of the fund.
"I'm really pleased to think that Ruth's legacy can continue like this," Fran says. "I know she would be proud if she knew it."