Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Ruth L. Kaufman

To her many friends, Ruth Kaufman was part of the family

SOUTH PASADENA — What many people do for family, Ruth Kaufman did for her friends. These she made easily, though without revealing much about her own life.

Her family, co-workers at St. Petersburg Junior College and her condominium complex knew not to ask too much.

But most of them have stories to tell about her.

"She was not just an acquaintance, she was a real true friend," said Una Liebig, who moved into Bay Isle, a 55-and-older complex, 27 years ago. Liebig was 40 then. She had met her then-76-year-old husband, Glenn Liebig, while waiting tables at a Holiday Inn.

Neighbors gossiped about Una Liebig, whom they presumed a gold digger. Ms. Kaufman taught her how to play bridge, and overlooked her mistakes at the game.

"She said, 'It doesn't matter how other people feel. It's how you and Glenn feel about each other,' " said Liebig, now 67.

Ms. Kaufman, who taught English at St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College) from 1961 to 1983, died on March 1, of coronary problems. She was 84.

Neighbors recall a heavy smoker with a gravely voice, a champion bridge and Scrabble player who could complete a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in the time it took them to walk the schnauzer.

She was equally quick to help them.

When downstairs neighbor Fran Vicedomini broke her kneecap and didn't want to go to a hospital, Ms. Kaufman insisted on driving, then did the grocery shopping for weeks.

Former SPJC administrator Ilda Littell saw Ms. Kaufman nearly every day at the hospital when Littell's husband was dying.

"She was taking me out to lunch," said Littell, 76. "She would say, 'Take a walk, I'll sit with him for a while.' "

As a teenager in Pennsylvania, Ms. Kaufman cared for her mother, who suffered from Parkinson's disease. She taught school for a while, then went to graduate school at Penn State in the late 1950s. She quickly found herself at the center of a controversy in her dormitory.

"Somebody refused to room with a black woman, and (Ms. Kaufman) took her in," said Ilze Lakstigala, 81, a New Jersey dentist. "She definitely stepped in there and said that she would room with her."

She was a confirmed bachelorette who didn't mind dating.

"There were two men in St. Pete," Lakstigala said. "She said it was heading (toward marriage) and she decided that she doesn't want to wash socks and cook for somebody." But Lakstigala, a friend of 50 years, also saw a tender side. When they met in a big city, they tried to see Madame Butterfly if it was on. It was Ms. Kaufman's favorite opera, and she always cried at the end.

Ms. Kaufman retired at age 58 without regrets. "She said, 'I only want peanut butter and hot dogs. I just want to have the rest of my life to enjoy,' " said niece Susan Heizen, who became closer to Ms. Kaufman than to her late mother.

It was just like Ms. Kaufman to offer to pay her niece's legal bills during a rough divorce (Heizen declined). Just like her, too, not to see doctors. It seemed she didn't need them, at least until congestive heart failure caught up with her.

When Heizen was going through Ms. Kaufman's belongings, she found a yellowed newspaper clipping in her aunt's wallet. It was a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:

"You can go on and you must. Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all that life really means."

"That's Ruth," Heizen said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

>>Biography

Ruth L. Kaufman

Born: Jan. 24, 1925.

Died: March 1, 2009.

Survivors: several nieces and nephews.

To her many friends, Ruth Kaufman was part of the family 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 8:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  2. Busted: How a Times photographer captured Donald Trump's fake news

    Blogs

    Tampa Bay Times photojournalist Scott Keeler was on assignment last summer for a story about Donald Trump’s presence in Palm Beach, a tale of glamour and conflict. Along the way he inadvertently captured evidence of a …

    Near the main entrance at Mar-a-Lago, the fake Time magazine cover is on display in July 2016.
  3. Jones: Steve Yzerman's plan for getting the Lightning back into the playoffs

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Seems like forever since the Lightning played a hockey game.

    If the Lightning season started right now, would Steve Yzerman be happy with what he has? "We're still a couple of players short,'' Yzerman said.. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. Does St. Pete's police chief need to live in St. Pete? Rick Baker thinks so (Chief Holloway lives in Belleair)

    Blogs

    Last night’s mayoral throwdown between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker got nasty enough that the moderator and some members of a packed, sweaty audience at Midtown’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church told the two leading candidates to cool it.

    Chief Tony Holloway's residence in North County has become part of the mayor's race in St. Petersburg