Ruth Houghton, crash victim, was dynamo for arts groups and longtime Fresh Air Fund board member

GREAT BARRINGTON — At 92, Ruth Houghton, who died in a car crash last week, remained a dynamo. While actively supporting charities and arts organizations, Houghton helped guide The Fresh Air Fund for more than 50 years and served on the board of the New York Council of the Arts for nearly 40 years. “She was a mover and shaker on these boards,” said her son, Robert Houghton, noting that her generosity was rooted in action. “She worked very hard.

There was never a dull moment. She loved the arts and getting things going in the community.” Houghton, of Great Barrington, was killed Dec.

28 as she tried to exit Lovers Lane on Route 7, and her car collided with a pickup truck driven by Samantha Kaye, 28, of Monterey, according to a release from the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office. Houghton died of injuries at the scene; Kaye was taken by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center. The DA’s office did not release information about Kaye’s condition.

The accident remained under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police. Robert Houghton, one of Ruth Houghton’s four children, told The Eagle his mother was born and raised in New York City, lived a number of years in upstate New York, and starting coming to the Berkshires around 30 years ago. “She was devoted to this place,” he said. “She felt like she belonged here.

She loved New York City, but she [also] loved it up here for the arts and the beauty.” Apart from The Fresh Air Fund board, which she joined in 1964, Houghton served on other boards, including those of the New York State Council of the Arts and the American Cancer Society. She also was involved with Lincoln Center, the New York Shakespeare Festival, and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Her passion for the arts sprang from her own musical talent; she had been a piano prodigy who at one point studied with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. “As a toddler, I would go under the piano when she played her Chopin, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is magic,'” her son said. Along with her Fresh Air Fund board work, Ruth Houghton hosted inner city children through the program during summers. “She was just devoted to the whole idea,” Robert Houghton said.

Fatima Shama, the fund’s executive director, said in an email that the nonprofit is “overwhelmed by this news.” In a release, Shama called Houghton a “distinguished leader” as an officer and in her committee work.  “We also benefitted from Ruth’s personal perspective and insight as a former Fresh Air host who was actively engaged in the Cooperstown, N.Y., Friendly Towns region,” she said. “We relied on her leadership, compassion, guidance and wisdom and enjoyed her quick wit, charm and grace.

We miss her already and will forever appreciate her invaluable support.” It hasn’t been an easy year for the family, Robert Houghton said. His father, Amory Houghton Jr., died in March at age 93. 

He said his mother’s grandchildren are feeling her loss acutely, sensing that she “had many more years.”

“She was very with it,” he said. “She told a lot of old jokes and stories.

She was in very good health and dynamic — that’s what’s so upsetting.”

You may also like...