Ruth Irene Gillespie Chenet (Ruth, Ruthie, Rooty) died peacefully at home on February 5, 2021 at age 94. The youngest daughter of Irene Marguerite Clark and William John Gillespie, Ruth was born in Philadelphia in 1926. Edna “Dolly” Pompetti (née Gillespie) and Dr. William “Bud” Gillespie Jr. were Ruth’s beloved siblings.
When Ruth was a teenager, the family moved to Bala Cynwyd where Ruth attended Lower Merion High School. Her senior year, she served as secretary of the student council (probably to keep an eye on the boys) and was known as persistent: “She’d have the last word with an echo,” her fellow students claimed in the yearbook. Upon graduation, Ruth’s father wanted her to go to junior college, but Ruth wasn’t so sure. She took the train to Philadelphia to apply in person, but on her way down Arch Street, she noticed a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the Insurance Company of North America. She walked in and left with a job. There, she met the head of the aeronautical department: a handsome young man from Brooklyn named James Hayden Chenet. Jim was recently home from serving in the European theater of WWII, where he piloted a B24 and endured eighteen months as a prisoner of war. He won Ruth’s heart, and later that year, they were married.
After living briefly in Rosemont, PA, and Spokane, WA, where Jim served in the National Guard, the young couple moved to Birmingham, Michigan, where they raised their family for eighteen years. They had five sons and one daughter: James Hayden, Jr. (Ginny), Douglas William (Pat), Scott Dennis (Marianne), Charles Clark (Sandy), Michael Keith (Nancy), and Irene “Bunny” Boyle (Tom).
Jim and Ruth moved back to the Philadelphia area for their golden years. The Chenet family grew to twenty grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren, to whom Jim and Ruth were known as Pops and Memom. A lifelong lover of fashion, Ruth worked at the Estée Lauder counter at Wanamaker’s. After Jim passed away in 1991, Ruth continued to work in retail, never wanting to sit still. She eventually retired at age 85 after working her final job at Bryn Mawr Hospital’s ENT practice, where she managed the file system and kept everyone on their toes.
For Ruth, there was little that could not be fixed with a mug of ice cream, a fresh load of laundry, a new tube of lipstick, or a radio singalong with Frank Sinatra. She wore turtlenecks in all seasons, loved to dance, and never wanted to be seen as an old lady. Above all, she loved her family. She never missed a grandchild’s birthday and loved to hear from family members on the phone—just as long as you didn’t talk too long; she had to get back to organizing her closet. She will be greatly missed. We love you, Mom. Rest in Heavenly Peace with Dad, until we meet again.
Service will be private due to Covid. A celebration of Memom's life will take place this summer.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to your local Hospice Agency or give your kids or grandkids an extra big hug for Memom.
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