A Life Lived: Ruth Stein

Ruth Stein, of Margate, seen above in 2006 at the home of longtime friend Joyce Anderson, of Linwood. Stein had many careers in her 95 years but was a lifelong music lover and singer.

Photo provided by Anne Kabo

Ruth Stein sang before she talked.

Or at least that was how Stein, of Margate, who died last month at 95, heard the story from her mother, Mamie Levaur.

Stein made a lot of changes over all her years. She went to nursing school after she finished Atlantic City High School and was a registered nurse until she married Walter Stein, then quickly became a stay-at-home mom — mostly — to their only child, Judy Amato, 73.

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When Amato left for college, her mother went back to nursing. But at almost 50, Stein continued her own education, first at the old Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, and later at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she earned a master’s degree in psychology.

“And she did (college) like a 17-year-old,” Amato said from her home in New York. “She didn’t know how to drive, so she learned.”

When Stein was ready to work again, she helped kick off a preschool program called Head Start in Atlantic City and nearby towns. Next, she moved back to her old high school, where her work included drug counseling and a project to improve race relations among students. Later still came another job, teaching psychology at the then-Atlantic Community College.

But whatever her work was, Stein always sang for fun. When she was young, she performed professionally in Atlantic City, Amato said, and as a mother, Stein “sang in a synagogue on Friday nights and Saturdays, then in a church on Sundays,” she added.

The Rev. Paul McKay, of Margate Community Church, has known Stein since she joined the Festival Chorus at his church more than 30 years ago. She was still a featured soloist into her late 80s, he said.

But she also loved hearing other singers: McKay and Stein would go to New York and the Metropolitan Opera when she was in her 90s, he said.

Joyce Anderson, of Linwood, said “singing was a passion for Ruthie.” But she said her close friend was passionate about many things.

They got to know each other well when Anderson recruited Stein to teach at Atlantic Community. Anderson saw how committed Stein was when a class Stein taught in Atlantic City had to be called off because of snow. Some students showed up anyway, though, so their teacher invited them home and held a class in her Margate apartment.

Stein was in good health until the past year or so, but even cancer and other conditions couldn’t make her relax and get lazy.

“She was frustrated as she got older because she always wanted to do something significant,” Anderson said.

Right up to the end, Stein always wanted new challenges, new adventures.

“If you told me she went skydiving (last month), I wouldn’t be surprised,” her daughter said. “Wherever her curiosity took her, she was willing to go.”

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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