“I still have a lot of work to do.”
So says Ruth Frost Parker, “Sandusky’s quiet lady,” whose vision and character personify the faith-based mission and community attributes of United Church Homes.
An elegant lady who isn’t afraid to get her hands (or shoes) dirty, she maintains very high standards for the causes she supports. A generous local philanthropist in Erie County, Ohio, her contributions to United Church Homes are unsurpassed, and she’s the visionary behind Parkvue Community in Sandusky, Ohio. But at the core of this woman is a giving spirit that involves so much more than money.
Countless visitors and residents of Erie County have and continue to benefit from Ruth’s good works.
Yet it’s not notoriety that she seeks. In fact, those who know her best maintain that she’s a private person simply on a mission to honor her family’s legacy by investing in the future of Sandusky and Erie County.
Forging her own path
Ruth is the only child of John and Zella Frost, who came from Ontario, Canada, and settled in Cleveland where Ruth was born in 1922. Her parents were humble, generous individuals who served as role models for her drive and philanthropy.
Her family moved to Sandusky in 1939, principally because her father, John G.G. Frost, thought the business environment in Sandusky would be superior to what he had experienced in Cleveland. To say that her father’s business thrived in Sandusky is an understatement. At one point, his company was the second largest provider in the nation of magnesium scrap and magnesium aluminum alloys, key raw ingredients needed by the fast-growing airplane industry. Aluminum Magnesium Inc. continued to grow rapidly throughout World War II and the post-war years.
In 1967 Mr. Frost’s firm was acquired by Vulcan Materials Company of Birmingham, Alabama.
Ruth chose to major in biology and chemistry at Wooster College (where she later served on the Board of Trustees). She received her medical technologist training from Northwestern Medical School. She married her sailing friend, William (Bill) Parker in 1954.
Bill was a salesman and worked for Ruth’s father’s business. When John Frost retired, Vulcan acquired his business and Bill continued his career at Vulcan. Upon his retirement, Bill volunteered as CEO of Goodwill for two years. Ruth and Bill enjoyed a nice life, along with their three children. Today, Ruth enjoys six grandchildren who fondly call her Mimi.
For decades Ruth thrived as a wife and mother, while serving Erie County residents in multiple capacities in such areas as alcohol addiction, education, volunteerism, historic preservation and community beautification.
That all changed when her beloved husband, Bill, perished in a private airplane crash in November 1985. Widowed at a young age, Ruth pledged to focus her generosity on improving life for those who call Sandusky and Erie County home.
The house that Ruth built
A dedicated member of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sandusky, Ruth knew of a brother and sister from her congregation who needed to be in a home together. The nearest facility available at the time was Fairhaven Community, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
She recognized the need for a faith based senior living community closer to home. Ruth chose United
Church Homes as the project partner. As an organization affiliated with the United Church of Christ, it became the ideal partnership.
“When I first met Ruth, I was given a glimpse of the true servant leader she is, one who embodies Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. It was obvious she had been fulfilled in knowing the Lord in a very personal way. Over the nearly 20 years I have known Ruth, that initial impression has been fortified by the countless ways I have seen her reach out to others without any expectation or desire for reward or recognition,” said Rev. Lenore Kure, pastor of First Congregational UCC.
She applauded Tim Shultz, former general manager at Parkvue Place, whose leadership helped her vision for the project come to fruition. In 1992, with Ruth’s vision, generosity and leadership, United Church Homes’ Parkvue Community in Sandusky was born.
“Ruth is a woman on a mission. She is engaged in a lifelong program to improve her community. This extends to a number of causes including Parkvue Community. She has given so generously over the years to establish and sustain Parkvue, affectionately calling it her baby and her second home,” said Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes.
“While envisioning an expanded campus for the future, she has made key contributions to move Parkvue toward that larger dream. She has supported our renovations of the Fast Track Rehab center and the construction of an expanded therapy space which the outstanding therapists deserve so they can continue to work with her and others. This has enabled us to more than double our number of skilled care rehabilitation patients,” continued Rev. Daniel.
“Just volunteering on a board is not enough”
Ruth has held many volunteer leadership roles in the community including serving on the board of directors at United Church Homes, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Bowling Green State University Foundation, State Theatre Restoration, Renovation of Downtown Sandusky Waterfront, Erie County Community Foundation, Firelands Regional Medical Center and the College of Wooster.
“Before I give to an organization, I find out if the full board is giving money before I get involved. Just volunteering on a board is not enough,” Ruth said. She challenges the board with a gift, which she hopes they will match in the amount which each member is able to give.
She recognizes the need to preserve the beauty of downtown Sandusky, and was instrumental in the founding of the Merry-Go-Round Museum. The museum is housed in the former post office. The carousel museum officially opened in July 1990.
“Ruth is a woman who leads by example. She sees a need, identifies it and figures out how to fix it. If she wants it to happen, she makes it happen,” said Veronica Vanden Bout, director of the Merry-Go-Round Museum.
“I believe in doing things in my hometown. My father did very well here. He started his business and was very passionate about this community, and so am I,” Ruth explained.
“Ruth does everything with a sense of urgency. Once she has made up her mind to support a project, she wants to see the dirt fly! The photo on the cover of Spirit really captures her personality and leadership style. Before we have one project completed, she has already started thinking about the next. She is the most significant donor whose generosity has powerfully impacted the ministry of United Church Homes,” said Rev. Daniel.
Those who know and work with Ruth all attest to her generous nature and high expectations. When she lends her support to a cause, it is with a determination that her support will improve the lives of others.
“She is hands on and expects good things to happen from her gifts. She is generous with her support and direct about her expectations that the project be done right. We are so grateful that she has included United Church Homes and Parkvue Community in her philanthropic journey,” said Gloria T. Hurwitz, vice president of advancement for United Church Homes.
After all, there is still so much work to be done.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the
Creator through him.
– Colossians 3:17