Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson
October 6, 1927 - December 16, 2002
by Karen Funk Blocher

Ruth Anne Johnson and Frank E Funk in 1949.

Frank and "Rusty" (Ruth Anne), 1949

Ruth Anne Johnson, circa 1950

circa 1950



Flora M Johnson, Ruth Anne Johnson and cat, circa 1990

 

Ruth Louise Johnson was born October 6, 1927 in Stratford, Connecticut. Her father was Ambrose Alexis Johnson, who owned a small machine tool factory, and her mother was Flora DuFour Johnson, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Syracuse, NY in 1940. Her older sister was Flora M Johnson, who grew up to become an engineer. During the Depression, the elder Flora lived with her two daughters in a Tully, New York farmhouse called Windswept.

At some point in her teens, Ruth dropped the "Louise" from her name and adopted her confirmation name "Anne" as a middle name, becoming Ruth Anne. (However, the middle name Louise--not Anne--remained on her passport throughout her life.) As Anne Jensen, Ruth Anne was a professional singer prior to marrying Karen Funk Blocher, born 3/10/57 in Syracuse). By 1965, Dr. Ruth Anne Funk was Executive Director (later president and chairman) of the Mental Heath Association of Onondaga County, on the board of directors of five local charities, seeing patients in private practice at home, and directing her musical revue, DeManleyville '65. All this was despite continuing health problems from a bout with polio encephalitis circa 1960, for which she was repeatedly hospitalized. She underwent tests at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston in early 1964, but results were inconclusive.

Frank and Ruth Anne were divorced in 1976. (Frank was successfully remarried to Ruth Christy Funk for over a quarter of a century until her death on 6/1/2012.) After the divorce, Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson moved to Cape Canaveral, FL (later Satellite Beach and then Melbourne, FL), with a brief stint in San Bernardino, CA. In Florida she later taught speech and drama at the Brevard campus of Barry University. In the early 1990s, after the death of her sister, Flora, Ruth Anne moved to Tucson, AZ to be near her daughter. She died of a stroke on December 16, 2002.

Aside from her work as a psychologist, a singer and an educator, my mom was best known as the author of numerous plays and musical revues, many of which included her original songs and parody lyrics to existing songs. Her shows included the science fiction drama The Consumers, the musical revues DeManleyville USA, DeManleyville '65, They'd Rather Be Right, and at least four one act plays in Florida, two of which won awards. Songs from DeManleyville and They'd Rather Be Right included such titles as Come Back, G.E., I Wish You Well, I Lost My Love At the Fairmount Fair, The John Burp Society Marching Song (featuring the opening line, "Let's take the red out of red, white and blue"), and the ballet in which I danced, badly, Old Enough to Sit Alone. Her very best original songs were Merry Go Round and The Ending of Desire, the latter of which is reproduced below. I sang it at her funeral.


a painting she commissioned in the early 1970s
Autobiographical painting commissioned in the early 1970s

Fact File
Born:
October 6, 1927, in Stratford, CT (the birth certificate technically says Bridgeport, probably the hospital location). Birth name: Ruth Louise Johnson.
Father:
Ambrose Alexis Johnson, born September 22, 1901 in Scranton, PA;
died of cancer August 18, 1950 in Syracuse, NY.
Mother:
Flora Missellier DuFour Johnson Ballantyne, born June 28, 1895 in Stratford, CT; died July 6, 1984 in Melbourne, FL.  Separated from Johnson in 1944 and married Thomas Ballantyne.  Second marriage annulled in 1948.
Sister:
Flora M. Johnson, born January 23, 1922 in Bridgeport, CT; died December 26, 1994 in Melbourne, FL.
Marriage:
Married Frank E. Funk on October 29, 1949 in Port Jarvis, NY. (This appears to have been the second of two wedding ceremonies, one civil, one church; they used to celebrate their anniversary on June 6th.) Divorced July 27, 1976 (New York State). [Frank Funk died August 21, 2015.]
Children:
Steven Eric Funk, born March 25, 1950 in Bethlehem, PA; died September 6, 2014 in Euclid, OH.
Karen Christine Funk Blocher, born March 10, 1957 in Syracuse, NY, married John W. Blocher May 19, 1979 in Syracuse, NY.
Education:
B.A., Magna Cum Laude, Syracuse University, 1947
M.A., Syracuse University, 1951
Ph.D., Psychology, Purdue University, 1955
Work:
Secretary for father's machine tool company, early 1940s.  (Mother was VP, sister was treasurer.)
Singer, Varsity Coeds, 1948
English teacher, New York City, 1948-1949
Counselor, Instructor, Director, Purdue Reading Clinic, 1952-1956
Research Associate, Syracuse University, 1957-1958
Private Practice, 1959-circa 1980.
Supervising Psychologist, Oneida County Clinics, 1961-1965;
Executive director, Mental Health Association of Onondaga County, Nov. 1965-1967
Clinical Psychologist, Crouse-Irving Alcohol Services (Robert G. Soule Clinic), 1967-1976
Psychologist, Kaiser Permanente, San Bernardino, CA 1977-1978
Psychologist, Brevard County, FL 1976, 1978-1980?
Professor, Drama and Speech, Barry University, Brevard campus, 198?-1994
Plays & Revues Written, sometimes including music and lyrics:
DeWittzapoppin (co-writer), circa 1960.
Porthole Nine
(co-writer), 1963; was cast and rehearsed but not performed.
DeManleyville, USA
1964; DeManleyville '65, March 26-27, 1965; actors in 1965 version included Karen Funk.
The Consumers,
8/27/1965; actors included Frank Funk.
They'd Rather Be Right
, 1968; actors included Steven Funk.
Up From the Apes
(not completed, 1970); inspired by the work of Desmond Morris.
The Littlest Angel
(musical adaptation), 1970; from the play by Charles Tazewell.
BEAsop's Fables
(co-writer), 9/26/1969; one-woman show starring Bea Solomon.
Leavings
(trio of one-act plays Valedictory, Transplants, and Almost the Prize), 1987; Florida.
The Second Mrs. Chance
, 198?
; Florida.
The Plumbers, circa 1987; Florida.
Losing Face
, circa 1990, Florida.

Associations, Charities and Clubs:
(dates are based on newspaper articles and are incomplete)
Limestone Community Theater (V.P.)
Mental Health Association of Onondaga County (V.P., 1973; President, 1975-6)
New York State Psychological Association (Secretary of Syracuse chapter, 1961)

Syracuse Chorale (board member, 1972)
Syracuse Little Theater (board member)
University Women

Wagon Wheel (V.P., 1970)


The Ending of Desire
by Ruth Anne Johnson Funk

copyright 1965 by RAF

Dusty pictures
Of girl and boy
When they were young,
Alive with joy.
Do they resemble people we knew?
I can't recall,
Can you?

We'll never miss
The heartaches that we feared,
The cooled-off kiss,
The warmth that disappeared,
The feelings that
We never learned to share--
And aren't you glad
That we forgot to care?

So, old friend,
We'll warm ourselves
At some remembered fire,
And celebrate the ending of desire.

So don't be sad;
There's nothing more to say.
At least we had
A passion--yesterday.
Don't try to clutch
A love that slipped away;
It was too much
Trouble, anyway.

So take my hand, old friend,
We'll warm ourselves
At some remembered fire,
And celebrate the ending of desire.



Part of the original sheet music for
The John Burp Marching Song
from DeManleyville '65

Obituary:
A former psychologist, college professor, professional singer, amateur songwriter and award-winning playwright, Ruth Anne Johnson came to Tucson in the early 1990s from Melbourne, Florida. Born in Stratford, CT in 1927, she lived for many years in metropolitan Syracuse, NY, where she was on five boards of directors at once circa 1965, and served as Executive Director (later President) of the Mental Health Association of Onondaga County. She appeared in Who's Who in American Women and 2000 Women of Achievement in the early 1970s under the name Dr. Ruth Anne Funk. Divorced from Dr. Frank E. Funk in 1976, she is survived by her children, Steven Eric Funk of Cleveland OH and Karen Funk Blocher of Tucson. She died Monday, December 16, 2002 after a stroke. Funeral service will be held at St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church on Wednesday, December 18th. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to the Mental Health Association through United Way.

Ruth Anne Johnson grave marker

My Dad: A Tribute to Dr. Frank E. Funk
Legacy: The Musical Satire of Ruth Anne Johnson Funk


Ruth Anne Johnson on Find A Grave
Welcome to MÔvarin page
Karen's Author bio page
Karen's Credos and Curios page
books
Ed Hutchison's web site, with Dewitt-related and genealogical links

Last updated: 10/7/2016