Cover photo for Shirley E. Ruedy's Obituary
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Shirley E. Ruedy

June 11, 1947 — August 8, 2023

Shirley E. Ruedy

In an instant, on the cloudless morning of Tuesday, August 8, 2023, the Reverend Deacon Shirley Eloise Wallace Ruedy passed out of mortal life while at home in Staunton, Virginia. She was preceded just over one year ago by Ralph, her husband of fifty-two years. Shirley and Ralph were inseparable in life, and it gives the family comfort to know they are now sharing eternity together.

Shirley was born on June 11, 1947, the oldest daughter of Clyde and Virginia Wallace. She grew up in the small town of Philo, Ohio, just down the Muskingum River from Zanesville, and graduated from Philo High School. She went on to attend Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where she began a lifetime of international travel, studying at Exeter in the UK and spending time in Moscow, then capital of the USSR, through a student exchange program.

Following her time at Wittenberg, Shirley was awarded academic scholarships to pursue graduate work at Duke University. While working on her Masters degree in English Literature, she met fellow Masters student Ralph by chance in the student cafeteria. It happened to be April 23 -- William Shakespeare’s birthday. Their first date was to an academic conference on King Lear, and on July 13 of the same year they married at the Duke Chapel. It was, as one of their professors put it, “the only time King Lear didn’t end as a tragedy.” Shirley and Ralph went on to both earn Masters and PhDs in English at Duke. Shirley’s PhD thesis on Edmund Spenser’s 16th century epic poem The Faerie Queen is available at the Duke library.

Ralph and eventually Shirley joined the US State Department and served their country with absolute honor and integrity at their multiple postings. During Ralph’s inaugural duty assignment to Iran, Shirley taught English language and literature at Melli University in Tehran, where she experienced first hand some of the first unrests of what would eventually become the Iranian Revolution. She also held university appointments teaching English while living in East Berlin and in Duesseldorf, West Germany, and at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. 

Her first post as a Foreign Service officer was a coveted tandem assignment with Ralph at the American Embassy in Bonn, West Germany. Shirley and Ralph went on to serve together at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. as well as the American Embassy in Moscow, Russia -- an assignment that required both to to attend the same intensive language training course for months to prepare.

Shirley was famously witty, humble, and wholly unflappable, which made her a natural diplomat. She was once asked by a journalist, following a terrorist attack on the embassy in Moscow that sent an RPG flying through the building, destroying a photocopier, whether the United States government had been prepared for such an incident. Without hesitation, she stared down the camera and stated, unequivocally, “The United States government is always prepared.” She and her fellow officers then nominated the copier for Employee of the Month, and went back to work. 

Shirley and Ralph found their retirement dream house in Staunton in 2001. Despite leaving the Foreign Service, neither lost their love of travel or their fascination for international affairs. Shirley’s nuanced understanding of Russian history, culture, and politics made her a sought-after speaker, particularly during the lead up and aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine. 

Retirement afforded Shirley the opportunity to pursue two of her other great loves: learning, and her Christian faith. She applied and was accepted into the Spiritual and Pastoral Care program at Loyola Marymount University in Maryland, commuting weekly to the campus for three years before earning her second Masters degree in 2006. Shortly thereafter she was called to become a deacon with the Episcopal Church. Following her ordination, she was overjoyed to join her home parish church, Trinity Episcopal in Staunton, Virginia, where she delighted in sharing the love of God with her community.

Amid all of her other accomplishments, Shirley was a fiercely loving, devoted mother to three children. She and Ralph are survived by Carolyn Ruedy of Staunton, Virginia; Elizabeth Ruedy Townes (Miles) of Arlington, Virginia; and Daniel Ruedy (Lauren) of Alexandria, Virginia. She also leaves behind a brother, Michael Wallace of Divide, Colorado, and Imogen Townes, her beloved granddaughter. 

A memorial service for Shirley will take place on Friday, August 25th at 10:00 AM at  Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, with interment on the grounds. A reception will be held immediately following. 

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorial contributions to local charities supporting families in need, including Valley Mission, SACRA, the Trinity Noon Lunch Program, Trinity Cares, the Central Feeding Ministry, or the charity of your choosing.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Shirley E. Ruedy, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, August 25, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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