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Mackay, Ruth

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June 12, 1930 - December 19, 2014

Mackay, Ruth

Ruth Mackay

June 12, 1930-December 19, 2014

 Ruth Mackay, 84, of Dallas, Texas formerly Florida and Illinois died peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones. She was born June 12, 1930 in Hamburg, Germany to the late Erwin and Elisabeth Strauss.  She was preceded in death by her second husband, Don MacKay. She is survived by her brothers, Harold Strauss, resident of Georgia and Eric Strauss in Berkley, CA, her children; John Hasenberg of Morton Grove, IL, Dorette Brown of Brookfield, IL, Deborah Mabeley of Dallas, TX, and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Mom was born in 1930 in Hamburg, Germany. Mom was an admitted Daddy’s girl. Her father had to flee Germany prior to the start of WWII because he was a Jew. He was forced to leave his family behind in order to leave safely.  Mom, her Mother and her brothers had to stay in Germany during the remainder of WWII and it was not until the last 20 years would she discuss those hard events. Her paternal aunt was killed in Auschwitz and her paternal uncle was killed by the Nazi’s. She survived the bombing of Hamburg in July 1943, which was a significant event, killing 42,600 Germans and almost destroying the entire city. Many more bombings would occur, but I believe it was this event that Mom wrote about being the most difficult time during the war. At 13 years old she found herself wandering through the bombed streets, trying to find her family, and wondering if they were still alive.

Mom described herself as a child being outgoing, loving, a tomboy and a daredevil. She would defy her mother by rollerskating when her mother said no and jumping off moving elevators with a childhood friend.

Mom arrived in the United States in September 1946 at the age of 16 and her family settled in the city of Chicago.  She did not speak English, was entered into 1st Grade until she was able to learn English, and go through the necessary grades to ensure she could graduate from 8th Grade. She graduated from Elementary School in January 1948 and become a Citizen of the US in February 1948.

She was united in marriage with John Hasenberg December 1953, and gave birth and raised her children in this marriage. Mom and Dad settled in the City of Chicago and later moved to LaGrange, IL after the race riots in the 60s prompted them to leave the city. Mom was very active in the civil rights movement. They later divorced after the children were grown, and over the years, became good friends.

Mom did not learn to drive until she was in her forties. After a couple of stressful attempts with Dad trying to teach her, I remember her paying for a company to give her driving lessons.

Mom used to take us to the Art Institute in Chicago and my favorite part always was to see ‘The Thorne Rooms’ and looking at the State Street windows during Christmas, especially at Marshall Fields.

Another thing she did in her forties is go to Nursing School. She graduated in September 1976. I was quite proud of her for this achievment. She worked at Hinsdale Sanitarium and Hospital on the Telemetry Ward until she retired as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

She married Don MacKay in February 1989. Unfortunately he was killed in a auto accident July 1991. Although it was a brief marriage, they were very much the love of each other’s life. Mom and Don enjoyed many trips together and loved their home in Downers Grove, Il.

Mom loved reading and it is because of her I enjoy the same love of reading. Many of our conversations centered around the books she or I were reading. Her last two favorite books she read several times each were ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand and ‘The Gargoyle’ by Andrew Davidson.

Mom also loved creative writing and photography. She took classes on both these topics and became quite accomplished. She framed her favorite photo she took of a fall day in the woods. Her writing provided an outlet for some of her experiences during WWII.

Mom enjoyed many of  her retirement years at Century Village in Pembroke Pines, FL. She was extremely social, had a large group of friends, and was always on the go. She very much enjoyed her time there.

Mom came to live with me, Debbie Mabeley, in December 2011 due to her health concerns and diagnosis of dementia. She enjoyed the remainder of her life with her favorite of my dogs, Shiner, the brown dog in the picture. He slept on her bed and I would often tease her that he thought it was his bed and he was just letting her use it. She and Shiner got in trouble many times mostly for her sneaking him people food and the two of them getting caught, like the time I found several of her bowls under the bed where Shiner had licked them until they were clean.

Mom was a quick study, often when we went places together she would ask others about their personal life, knowing the right questions to ask, and getting to know that person in a brief period of time. This ability always amazed me, and even with her dementia, when she would see that person again she would remember the names of their wife or children and would ask them how they were.

Mom was loved deeply and will be missed by many.

A small private service was held at her home in Dallas, Texas.


Arrangements are under the direction of:
ARIA Cremation Service & Funeral Home
10116 E. NW Highway
Dallas, Texas 75238


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Eric Strauss

January 02, 2015 2:21AM


I have always felt close to Ruth, my sister. She was ten years old when I was born and she, in truth, was my first mother. It was November 1939 in Hamburg, Germany and our father, a Jew, had left for the United States via Italy three days before I was born, to escape Hitler’s Germany. My mother was left frightened and alone in a world that had turned very hostile. Ruth took over the work of taking care of me because my mother had a nervous breakdown.

Ruth always had a lot of courage and capacity for change. I admired the way she picked herself up after her first marriage. She went from being the down-trodden but patient wife, hoping for a better day, to a woman who stood up for herself and accepted divorce rather than continuing in a punishing relationship with an alcoholic. Yet, she did not harbor bitterness or hate towards her first husband. In later years, she told me she and her ex had some good talks by phone and were exploring the past together.

After the divorce, Ruth knew she had to make a living and became a nurse. She elected to work at nights, having always been a night owl. She told me she liked working when the bosses weren’t there; it appealed to her independent nature. And she preferred to work with people who were dying. She had never been afraid of death and was able to be a comfort to the dying.

Ruth had three more serious relationships with men after her divorce, each of them loving and on her terms. The first was a partnership that was a marriage except for the formalities, the other a formal marriage, and the third a deep friendship. Her second husband, Don, was the love of her life and their five years together, before he was killed riding a motorcycle, were the happiest of her life. She felt loved and cherished.

Ruth could always pick herself up and continue with life. Her partner died after they were together for five years and, of course, she missed him. But in a while she found Don and started over. Of course, she missed Don terribly when he died but she again took courage and moved to a new life at Century Village in Florida, where she was involved for years in a very beautiful friendship with another man. And then, when she could no longer live by herself, and her daughter, Debbie, lovingly took her to Texas to live with her, she again picked herself up and accepted life as it now was. When I spoke to her over the phone she told me how much she was enjoying life with Debbie and how fond she was of the dogs. There was not a word about her past life nor any lament about no longer being independent. She simply never looked back.

No one can live life with the acceptance that Ruth brought to it without a lot of inner strength that comes from a feeling of connection with the Divine. She was a deep and spiritual person who used this life to nourish her soul and prepare herself for life after death—which, she knew in her heart, was a certainty. Through most of her adult life, she suffered a great deal from irritable bowl syndrome that sapped her strength and often limited her life. When this was at its worst we would joke about how it would not last forever. She would laugh and cheerfully exclaim, “Bring on the Grim Reaper!” She clearly thought of death as nothing to be afraid of.

I learned my somewhat macabre sense of humor from Ruth. She would laugh uproariously over the blackest of black humor. We had a lot of fun whenever we were together.

Her visit to me in California during the 1970s was memorable. We gleefully visited every bakery and had the richest desserts we could find. We had great fun in San Francisco eating in various Italian restaurants including Scoma’s, a famous fish restaurant on Fisherman’s wharf. She loved my Berkeley coffee house, the Cafe Mediterraneum, and said that if she could move to Berkeley she would hang out at the coffee house all the time. And, of course, we exercised our mutually macabre senses of humor on each other. We always had a good time together.

Ruth was completely uninhibited about her body. One day we were in the North Beach area of San Francisco standing in front of Carol Doda’s topless club (long gone). I said that I could not understand why anyone would want to pay to see topless women when there were plenty of free nude beaches around. Ruth’s face immediately lit up and she said: “Really? I have always wanted to do that! Can we go to a nude beach?” I answered that we sure could and it happened that the next day was quite hot, so we went. I did feel a little embarrassed undressing in front of my sister but, what the hell, after all she had seen everything—she was a nurse. I soon relaxed and Ruth had a great old time walking around the beach naked and talking with naked men. She was very gregarious with or without clothes. But don’t mistake this for her having been “loose.” She may have been uninhibited about nudity but beyond that she was actually quite conservative and definitely monogamous.

Ruth was comfortable with men and so had no trouble meeting men. I saw just how outgoing she could be when we had dinner at Scoma’s. It’s a very busy place and we had to wait in the bar for a table to come free. I left her alone for awhile to visit the men’s room and when I came back she was seated in a booth with a gentleman who soon left with his party to take his table. But not before I heard Ruth invite him to stay with her if he came to the Chicago area (she was still living in Downers Grove at this time.) When we were alone I asked her whether she wasn’t being awfully forward with this fellow, inviting him to stay in her place. She reminded me that she is a night nurse and that she would not be at home all night long. We joked about how she might entice him: “Make yourself comfortable. Get into your pajamas…” and then the next thing she would appear in her hat and coat and say goodbye to the fellow!

There were many long years when Ruth and I didn’t see each other but I phoned her at least once a month just to stay in touch. I was able to visit her in Florida a couple of times and as before, we always had a good time together. I wished she could have visited me more often in California. I saw her last during the 1990s and wish I could have travelled to see her one last time in Texas but that wasn’t possible. We will see each other on the other side.

Becky Hanes

December 31, 2014 10:32AM

What a wonderful tribute to your mom. When I saw her picture it made me smile. The same Ruth I remember. I am so blessed to have been part of her church of the highlands family. The history you gave was truly amazing. I now realize where the hard working drive she had came from. Love and prayers to you and the family. Love you

Elizabeth Mays

December 30, 2014 11:35AM

I'm so sorry for your loss. I remember my mom picking you all up for church. I guess that's before your mom learned to drive. I was also very proud of your mom when she completed her nursing degree. I always admired her spirit and her willingness to see things through. She was one heck of a woman!

Donna Mays Guy

December 30, 2014 11:23AM

I remember your mom fondly. She was fun to be around. Your obit was full of information that I never knew about her. She was so brave! I know you will miss her. Hugs! Donna Mays Guy

Tammy Bailey

December 29, 2014 7:41PM

Deb, what a nice story about your Mom. She sounds like a really interesting person that I wish I'd known. My heart goes out to you and your family. Take care!


December 29, 2014 6:30PM

Debbie, What a beautiful tribute to your mom!!! Even though we grew up as best friends and I saw your mom often, I just learned things about her I never knew. Of course my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. My (our) church has been informed and prayers went out for you on Sunday. Love you!!

Robert Mabeley

December 29, 2014 5:13PM

I will miss my grandma very much and I am happy and grateful that I got to spend some time with her the last few years. That her great grandchildren got to met and visit with her. I will always take the strength that she had to make it through the things in her life to push through my own adversities. I love you grandma I know you are in a better place now.