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Ruth Parish
– A Memorial Tribute with Jazz!
Wed., April 24th, 5 to 8 pm

annemarie-ruthRuth Parish passed away a few months ago, and we’re gathering her friends and relations to celebrate her life and the fond memories we have of her as a regular for years at the Bird & Beckett Friday evening jazz sessions.  Ruth’s daughter Anne-Marie Fleming has organized the evening and has invited Michael Parsons, Don Prell and Chris Bjorkbom to be on hand to play some of the jazz Ruth loved.  Do come to celebrate a vibrant spirit!

Ruth was born in Texas in 1924, but soon thereafter the family moved to Chicago where Ruth was mostly raised… She graduated high school in the middle of WWII and got her first job at Wrigley’s chewing gum factory making “K” rations for soldiers — she and her co-workers were well pleased that they could help the war effort at home through their work.

In 1940, Ruth and her sister Katie moved to New York City, where they were offered jobs with the Treasury Department after passing the Civil Service exam.  REbbets_Field_Outside2uth met and married her first husband John in 1945, and her daughter Anne-Marie was born three years later.

Ruth and John were big baseball fans and were thrilled when Jackie Robinson became the first African American player in Major League Baseball when he joined the Dodgers in 1947.  They were lucky enough to be in the bleachers during his historical first game at Ebbets Field.

Ruth was a  big jazz fan all along the way. During the Swing Era (1935-1945) she would often go the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to jitterbug and to listen to top big bands like Charlie-Parker-and-Miles-Davis-Postersthose of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. After the big band era ended with the decline of swing, Ruth continued to listen to live jazz with the rise of bebop followed by “the cool era”, hearing such giants as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and the cool jazz ensembles that included the likes of Miles Davis and Stan Getz at famous NYC clubs like Basin Street East, The Five Spot, The Bluenote and Birdland.

lechat2kenny_clarkeRuth lived in Paris from 1960 to 1962, and she continued to go out to hear live jazz, going to famous clubs like La Chat Qui Peche on the Left Bank, where she heard such notables as Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and Dexter Gordon.  Leaving Paris in 1962, Ruth moved to San Francisco, where she lived out the next fifty years of her life.

Ruth started coming to Bird  & Beckett regularly in 2002, when she noticed that the store had started a regular Friday night jazz session, beginning with a trio of reed player Chuck Peterson, bassist Don Prell and drummer Jimmy Ryan, soon expanding to a quartet with guitarist Scott Foster and then to a quintet with Bird&Beckettatnightthe addition of reed player and arranger Bill Perkins.  Ruth was there for all of it, coming down the hill week after week from her apartment perched up on the edge of Glen Park — often accompanied by her daughter Anne-Marie.  A big jazz fan like her mother, Anne-Marie has followed in Ruth’s  footsteps, coming as often as she can to Bird & Beckett on Fridays and other nights, avidly following the music with the addition of pianist Michael Parsons and drummer Chris Bjorkbom to the roster of key jazz players gracing the bookshop’s stage.

Tonight — Wednesday, April 24th from 5 to 8 pm — we welcome Anne-Marie and the fond memory of her dear mother with a little wine, a lot of conversation and some fine jazz played by Don, Michael and Chris in Ruth’s honor!  Please join us!



  1. Ariel O'Donnell on April 22, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Ruthie was such an important person in my life. Whether it was s trip to the museum, or a Fellini film, she was incredibly fun to hang out with. Many hours were spent in her studio apartment on Haight Street, drinking red wine, smoking cigarettes, talking about politics, religion, philosophy and laughing. San Francisco is not the same without her.
    Great of you to host this event in Ruthie’s honor.
    -Ariel O’Donnell

  2. Kate & Brendan on April 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Dear Anne-Marie,
    What a beautiful, fitting tribute to your mother! Unfortunately, we cannot attend, but we send our love and fondest memories of Ruth to rise up in song with you all tomorrow.

    Brendan & Kate

  3. Ted Peterson on April 24, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I met Ruthie in 1972 (40 years ago, hard to believe) when she lived at Hunters Point. We had an immediate psychic connection. From the very beginning of our friendship we were like soul-mates. Ruthie was a very giving, wonderful, special person in my life. I will never forget her. One of my fondest memories of Ruthie is, interestingly enough, her coffee table. She always had it stacked with books, local happenings, and her lists of subjects she was interested in, and things she wanted to do. To this day, my coffee table looks the same and it’s a constant reminder of my dear, dear friend. She was a jazz nut and always had wonderful CD’s around. This memorial for her is very much what she would want. I thank you one and all for doing this for her. I only wish I could be there to celebrate with you. Love to you dear Anne Maria. Ted Peterson

  4. Christina Ruth-Marie Rivers on May 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Okay, this is going to be long…. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to my Aunt Ruthie. She was and is my shero, and I proudly bear her name, also her mother’s name. She was fun, spirited, strong, beautiful, smart, so ahead of her time, just extraordinary. Although my mother (her sister) was a teacher, I learned just as much from Aunt Ruthie. My mom hipped me to jazz, but Aunt Ruthie made it cool! My mom was all about health, but Aunt Ruthie turned me on to things like yoga, natural foods, and even astrology. She turned me on to politics in the early 70s too, when most people were understandably turned off by it. True to form, she didn’t push the mainstream stuff on me. She introduced me instead to Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live and best of all, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers! Each visit she’d bring me one or more copies of their magazines, and I saved them for years afterward until my basement flooded. She always cautioned me to question authority, and the sources of my information. She’s still teaching me and my own students, as I take her attitude into my classrooms. Aunt Ruthie was a great dancer and taught me the basics of jitterbug and lindy hop in my living room. I love that Anne-Marie is carrying that torch now. She was a fabulous cook and even better host. She was all class, but not afraid to get down with a bottle of Ripple or Boone’s farm. We NEVER knew what would come out Aunt Ruthie’s mouth–but we knew it would always be worth listening to, and often hilarious as well. She never lost her trademark humor, til the end she could crack us up with just one look. I’m so very proud to be her niece, and I will always love her dearly.

  5. Hallie on May 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I’m Ted’s other niece, and met Ruthie many, many years ago when I was a child, and have very fond memories of Ruthie. It wasn’t uncommon to see her at Ted’s house for Thanksgiving, and we even spent a few Christmases with her when I was small. She seemed like a very eclectic person, very warm, and I always enjoyed her company.

    Ruthie, wherever you are, play some good jazz for us!

  6. Sandy O'Donnell on May 11, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    I will always remember Ruthie as elegant,intelligent and a joy to be around. She had a very generous spirit and a beautiful, boisterous laugh. She left many positive memories behind for those who knew her.
    Thanks for the memories (and all that jazz)!


Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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