In Memoriam: Ruth Hamburger

In Memoriam: Ruth Hamburger

Ruth Kraft Hamburger, a friend of MAG for many decades, died October 3, 2010.

newspaper photo of Ruth Kraft Hamburger

A social worker with a passionate interest in Rochester’s arts scene, died in Bloomington, Indiana, surrounded by her family. She was 94 years old. The daughter of a self-made Russian immigrant father and first-generation American mother, she was the first woman in her family to go to college, attending the University of Michigan during the Great Depression and then the University of Chicago where she earned a Masters of Social Work.

She developed a life-long interest in politics as a means of promoting greater social and economic equality working at the Henry Street Settlement House in New York, in the Rochester public schools, and during World War II she served as a social worker treating returning veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. While in Washington she met Army Captain Dr. Walter W. Hamburger Jr. After the war, the couple married and moved to Rochester, NY, where she worked as a psychiatric social worker.

It was during this period in Rochester that her interest in the visual arts took off. She became acquainted with local artists and began acquiring her own unique collection, ranging from modern art, folk art, outsider art, to her “treasures,” ancient and modern artifacts of all kinds. Her passion in pursuing these and other interests allowed her to make unusually intense connections – from the staff and executives at the Memorial Art Gallery to the city’s junk dealers and demolition workers from whom she sought architectural remnants.

The home in Brighton that she shared with her husband, Peter, and three boys, was filled with an eclectic collection, including large pieces of iron ornamentation from the Rochester Railroad station designed by Claude Bragdon, theater chairs from the early days of the Eastman Theatre, and large pieces of driftwood hauled from Lake Ontario.

Her husband, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical School, died in 1961 leaving her to raise three sons while working as a social worker in the Rochester public schools and later at the Rochester Mental Health Center. After retirement, she remained in Rochester, active in the city’s arts, political and social life. In March of 2010 she moved to Bloomington, IN, where she was quickly embraced by a new community of friends.

She is survived by three sons, John Hamburger of Palo Alto, CA, Tom Hamburger of Silver Spring. MD, and Michael Hamburger of Bloomington, IN; daughters-in-law Sandra Park, Ellie Hamburger and Jennifer Bass, as well her seven grandchildren: Naomi, David, Julia, Lily, Lara, Ben and Sarah Hamburger.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Gallery’s Ruth Hamburger Endowment Fund.