ST. PETERSBURG — On a chilly October evening in 1952, Ruth Anderson and her husband, Alfred, huddled beside their four children on the bleachers.
On the football field, the St. Petersburg High Green Devils were playing someone.
The next morning, Alfred, then about 39, could not get out of bed or move his legs.
"The diagnosis was the dreaded disease of that era — polio," Mrs. Anderson recalled in an autobiography she completed in 2011.
Alfred Anderson was put in an iron lung, then had to use a wheelchair. He would not return to his job as an accountant for Florida Power for nearly a year. His wife never flinched from that challenge or others.
As always, the dear Lord took care of us by way of family and friends. Old Mr. Cowan was allowed to come and sit with the children while I went to the hospital. My mother and dad had a little grocery on 38th Avenue N, so they brought us groceries. Grandma and Grandpop had a house full of boarders, but they sent us food as did neighbors, and of course our church friends.
By church, Mrs. Anderson meant First Presbyterian, when it stood at Third Street N and Fourth Avenue. She joined in 1935, the year after she met Alfred at a Presbyterian youth camp.
Our dates were simple. No one had money for fancy dinners. The big deal was to drive around the (original) Pier, get a 5-cent Coke with two straws. … There were free dances at several hotels, including the Vinoy for invited young folks. It was formal attire for the girls and suits and ties for the boys.
Ruth Ware Angus was born March 30, 1916, in Attleboro, Mass. Woodrow Wilson was president and a gallon of milk cost 8 cents.
She grew up in St. Petersburg and San Diego, and then St. Petersburg again. Mrs. Anderson was the valedictorian at St. Petersburg High's Class of 1933.
She married Alfred in 1937. The two of them helped found the Highlanders, originally a youth Sunday school class. A prolific artist, Mrs. Anderson produced hundreds of paintings, including a mural of Jesus with the children that still adorns a wall at First Presbyterian. Her art work intensified after her husband's death in 1978.
Mrs. Anderson also made at least 333 quilts for ill children at the Ronald McDonald House, her family said. She also created numerous dolls and other fabric art.
"Each was a work of art," said Jean McCammon, 92, a friend of nearly 60 years in the church.
The Highlanders group members went on camping trips every year, aged together and ultimately died. The original youth group finally closed a couple of years ago.
For the past 23 years, Mrs. Anderson lived at Westminster Palms, next door to First Presbyterian. Several years ago, she began putting her life story into a hard-cover book, full of photos of her family, her artwork and early St. Petersburg.
She finished it in 2011. True to her wishes, Mrs. Anderson died April 17 without ever having moved into assisted living.
She was 98.