Ruth Marie White Dies, loving wife of Martin Dies, Jr. (deceased), was born in Bogalusa, La., Oct. 23, 1923 to Pearl Marie White and Herbert Cleon White, Sr. Throughout her long productive life, Ruth was an outgoing, fun-loving, thoughtful and indefatigable person, beautiful in body and spirit, who never met a stranger and rarely lost contact with a friend. On June 3, at her home in Austin, Ruth passed away surrounded in her last illness as she had been in life, with family and friends who adored her.
When Ruth was 12, her family moved from Louisiana to Lufkin where her father, in partnership with his friend Arthur Temple, founded and managed Temple White, Inc., a broom sweeper and mop handle factory that thrived for over half a century in nearby Diboll and became the largest manufacturer of broom handles in North America.
At Lufkin High School, Ruth made lifelong friends, formed an abiding passion for jitterbug and tap dance, was Flag Bearer, won academic and citizenship honors and was voted Most Beautiful by her senior class. Raised in the Disciples of Christ (First Christian) Church, Ruth went to Texas Christian University, where she not only studied, danced and formed lasting friendships, but also devoted hours volunteering in student clubs that informed and broadened her sense of responsibility to a wider community, and presaged the life’s work she would gracefully take on as helpmate in her future husband’s civic life.
In her freshman year, Ruth joined the Froggetts, working to promote War Stamp and War Fund programs with the additional goal of deepening relationships among freshmen dorm students. In subsequent years, she joined The Yeti Club to foster community relationships and was invited to be a member of The Bryson Club, whose mission was to bolster servicemen’s morale and to encourage students’ good character, leadership and scholarship. In 1945, Ruth was awarded her Bachelor of Science degree from TCU, then her Teacher’s Certification, and moved back to teach school outside of Lufkin.
It was there in 1946, that she met and fell in love with WWII naval hero, First Lieutenant Martin Dies, Jr., home on leave to visit his parents, Texas U.S. Congressman Martin Dies and his wife, Myrtle, following two years of combat duty in the South Pacific and serving as part of the Occupation Forces in Japan. Within weeks, as Lieutenant Dies had to report back to his ship, the couple persuaded Ruth’s family to allow her to take a cross country train ticket, hard to find at this tumultuous and joyous time, to meet Martin, Jr. at the San Diego Naval Base Chapel where they were joyfully married with her brother, then Major Herb White, Jr., Army Air Corps, in attendance. While still newlyweds, Ruth and Martin moved to Dallas where Martin attended Southern Methodist University School of Law. Upon graduation, they moved to Lufkin where Martin started and worked long hours at a growing law practice and Ruth cared for their growing family, helped start The Junior League of Lufkin and volunteered as a hospital aide and in her children’s schools.
Ruth met challenges in her life head-on, the most difficult one of which was the near fatal car accident that left her husband in critical condition for months in a Galveston hospital. Her life and that of the entire family changed in an instant. Ruth’s stoic, yet loving and positive attitude kept everyone going for the months in which she literally lived at John Sealy Hospital, assisting in the care of her beloved Martin while her three children lived with her parents. Once the family was reunited in Lufkin, Ruth stayed positive during the years in which Martin worked ceaselessly to rehabilitate himself, and Ruth was supportive when he decided that he had recovered enough to pursue his dream of running for Texas State Senate.
Ruth was by Martin’s side as often as she could be while Martin campaigned. She rejoiced in his election and she found that, as his wife and helpmate, she loved meeting people, learning about their lives, hearing their needs and hopes, and doing everything she could to assist her husband in helping them. Ruth always had been the consummate caregiver, not only of family and friends, but also of any neighbor in need. After Ruth took on the life of a State Senator’s wife, her caregiving extended to packing up her family every other year and moving to Austin, getting to know her children’s new friends, volunteering at their Austin schools, keeping in touch with schools and friends in Lufkin, learning the needs of her husband’s constituents and forming new communities of friendship.
Ruth made many friends at the Texas Senate Ladies Club, of which she was a member for over 45 years. And when she did need to be at the Capital with Martin, times then were such that they could allow their children to explore inside and roller skate around the Capital Building, or play by the pond on the Capitol grounds. Ten years passed quickly while Martin remained in the State Senate. In that time, Martin, with Ruth by his side, wrote and passed legislation on many subjects, including one close to Ruth’s and his hearts assuring needed raises to compensate and attract public school teachers and legislation to overhaul the state’s delivery of mental health services to children including establishing the Lufkin State School.
Ruth and Martin also understood, from their own childhoods in East Texas and from precious weekend excursions with their own children, how important it is for Texas families to have access to affordable State Parks where they can explore and enjoy nature. Martin worked tirelessly to expand the Texas State Park system. In 1965, after Martin introduced legislation and worked to ensure its passage in order to procure a beautiful, pristine native pine and hardwood forestland fronting Steinhagen lake near Jasper, the Texas legislature honored Martin and Ruth’s dedication by a Joint Resolution naming this The Martin Dies, Jr. State Park.
In 1969, Governor Preston Smith named Martin Secretary of State and Ruth and Martin moved to Austin full time with their youngest son, David. This worked well for Ruth because it allowed her to easily keep in touch with her two older children, Dianne and Martin W., who were students at UT Austin. Ruth seamlessly continued her many activities in Austin while also accompanying Martin at the many additional functions and events they now were required to attend, including Martin’s successful efforts to open the first Texas Trade Office in Mexico City in 1970. Ruth loved these years working with her husband, continuing to be a regular part of her children’s lives, seeing old friends and making new ones.
But, another chapter of her life, another position for her husband, would soon take her out of Austin. In 1972, Martin was appointed to the office of Chief Justice of the 9th Court of Civil Appeals in Beaumont. Ruth, being by now adroit at moving and establishing a new family home, found a lovely house, met and befriended the neighbors, and once again involved herself in the interests and concerns of the community in Southeast Texas. Ruth and Martin took great joy in vacationing with, and receiving longer visits from their grandchildren who thought school vacations spent with Mimi in Beaumont were thrilling.
Martin proved to be a most effective and respected State Judge. He never had opposition in five successful terms, however in late 1989 Ruth and Martin determined that it was time for him to retire from the bench. Martin and Ruth built a retirement home in Austin to be nearer family and for a few years they divided their time between Beaumont and Austin. When Martin passed away in 2001, a bereft but valiant Ruth moved to Austin to live in her garden home where, once again, she reached out and formed a lasting community. She was able to travel with her daughter and family and spend more time with her sons and their wives, with her grandchildren and then with great-grandchildren.
Ruth is survived by three children, Dianne Dies Schoch and husband Dr. Eugene Paul Schoch III, Martin White Dies and wife Darci Rock Dies and David Dies and wife Shelby Robinson Dies, as well as by her daughter-in-law and friend, Sharon Grimm Dies and beloved niece, Marilyn Ann White. Ruth also is survived by seven grandchildren who will remember years of happy times with their Mimi. They are Sharon Schoch Hubbard and husband Dr. Charles Jason Hubbard, Stephanie Dies Schoch, Bethany Dies and husband Matt Corrigan, Dr. Lauren Dies Brollier and husband John Brollier, Erin Dies Sawyer and husband Randy Sawyer, Dr. David Robinson Dies and wife Alicia Casey Dies and Patrick Dies and wife Ashleigh Thomas Dies.
In addition, Ruth treasured six surviving great-grandchildren, another generation of Mimi-lovers, Charles Jason Hubbard, Jr, Henry Schoch Hubbard, Charlotte Elizabeth Hubbard, William Isaac Sawyer, Wyatt Lee Sawyer and Rosalee Marie Dies. Ruth’s brother-in-law Jack Dies and wife Zelda Dies and nephew Robert Dies and niece Kathleen Dies Munger and husband Derek Munger also survive her.
A memorial service honoring Ruth’s life was held at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home in Austin, Sunday, June 5, and was followed by a private burial ceremony at the Garden of Memorials located near Lufkin.
Presiding at the memorial service in Austin was Dr. Warren Culwell, son of Ruth’s great friend from her Lufkin years, the late Lena Belle Peachy Culwell.
The family wishes to express their sincere appreciation to Dr. Richard White and to numerous caregivers, including Betty Barajas, Dora Alanis, Yolanda Garcia, Laura Landriault and to Austin Hospice for their dedicated assistance.
Contributions may be made in Ruth’s memory to TCU or Hospice of Austin. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com.