Ruth M. Blanchard, 95: Caretaker, artist with many mediums

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Ruth M. Blanchard, 95, a longtime South Portland resident, died on July 2. She was born in Portland on May 2, 1917, the daughter of Anna T. and Frank R. Barnes. She graduated from Portland High School, attended nursing school, and became an operating room nurse at Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Blanchard met her husband, Russell, on a blind date. They married in 1941 and soon moved into a house on Dawson Street, which Russell had built during their three-year engagement. They lived there for 68 years.

Blanchard was an avid reader, as well as a talented artist, seamstress and craftsperson. But her greatest joy was family. She sewed most of the family’s clothes, gardened and preserved jams and vegetables, upholstered furniture, hooked and braided rugs, crocheted, quilted, and made stuffed animals and toys for her many nieces and nephews and for church fairs.

Blanchard loved art and began painting, first in oils, and later in watercolors. Her husband was her biggest fan and always had a frame and mat ready for her finished pieces. Always modest, Blanchard didn’t charge for her paintings, and gave many to family, friends, and church raffles.

When her children were grown, Blanchard returned to nursing at Maine Medical Center and Brighton Medical Center, and later worked as a private-duty nurse for elderly home-bound patients.

Blanchard was a caretaker. Her gentle ways and smile endeared her to everyone she met. She delighted her children and grandchildren with her wonderful adventure stories, the “haunted houses” and obstacle courses she arranged in the basement, and the creative toys she made out of household items. She treated her family to freshly baked homemade desserts every day.

During their retirement years, the Blanchards enjoyed bus trips together and visited many historical sites, national parks and cities around the country.

Blanchard is survived by son David and his wife, Trisha, of Windham; son James and his wife, Denise, of Old Orchard Beach; daughter Judy O’Brien, of Old Orchard Beach; daughter Jean Fox and her husband, Francis, of South Portland; 10 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

She was predeceased by her husband, Russell, in 2010; her parents; two sisters, Joanne Barnes Sawyer and Leona Barnes Kelley; and five brothers, William, Everett, Henry, Ernest and Joel Barnes.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held July 9 at St. John the Evangelist Church in South Portland. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery, also in South Portland. Arrangements are being handled by Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to South Portland Nursing Home, P.O. Box 2413, South Portland, ME 04106, or to the American Heart Association, 51 U.S. Route 1, Suite M, Scarborough, ME 04074.

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