“I remember telling Ruth ‘stick with me and you’ll see the world’ when we just started dating and we did just that! We hiked the Rocky Mountains, we traveled to England, Greece, Turkey, Nepal, South Africa, and so many other places,” said Ron Tepley. “Each place we went, we embraced the culture and surroundings and found inspiration that we took back to the States.” As Ron speaks, he is surrounded by paintings, pictures, and sculptures each with a special story that he is willing to share. A passion for art that his late wife, Ruth, cultivated and cared for is seen and felt throughout their home.
Ruth and Ron were both born and raised in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. “We came from two different worlds and only met because a mutual friend set us up on a blind date,” Tepley said. Ruth and Ron were married in 1953. With Ron’s Army service and later his career with Pennzoil, they lived in multiple states across the country and made time to take many trips around the world.
The Tepleys were transferred to Parkersburg in 1982 where Ruth quickly immersed herself in the community. She became a yoga instructor and a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Marietta, where she served as the chairperson of the Worship Committee. She was a co-founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Parkersburg, a member of the League of Women Voters, and a docent at the Parkersburg Art Center.
Ruth was an avid gardener and hiker. She co-founded the Garden Tour of Parkersburg. Her last hike was in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal in 1998. Then in 2000, Ruth was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She lost her battle and passed away in 2001, leaving behind a loving husband, four children, and a love for arts and culture.
“I wanted to do something that would honor my wife and forever support the things she loved most,” Tepley said. The Ruth M. Tepley Memorial Fund was created in 2001 with the PACF to provide perpetual funding for grants for projects and purposes related to educational study in the fields of writing, painting, drawing, sculpture, and geology throughout the Foundation’s service area.
Since its creation, the Ruth M. Tepley Memorial Fund has made grants to increase area students’ access to, and participation in, the arts. Grants to support the Parkersburg Art Center, West Virginia University at Parkersburg, and two schools in Parkersburg, (Van Devender Middle School and Blennerhasset Elementary School) are giving local students the opportunity to experience hands-on learning with themed curriculum introducing students to the importance of art history, creative problem solving, aesthetic theory, and multi-culturalism. Grants from this Fund have built a foundation of developmental skills in the visual arts and opened new doors for local students.
“The Foundation knows the community and what projects are best to support with resources from Ruth’s fund,” Tepley said. “That’s what I like. I know what Ruth loved will forever be supported in this area because of this partnership.”