RUTH, as she was affectionately called by family and friends all of her life, was actually named Thelma Ruth Moore at her birth on February 15, 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents Bessie Lee Patterson Moore and Ezekiel Moore and her 10 older siblings all called her Ruth. Over the next 2 years as her last 2 siblings were born, they also knew her as Ruth. On her first day in kindergarten she learned, in an embarrassing fashion, that her name was actually Thelma. Of 13 children, she was the only one called by her middle name. But it didn’t matter, she was destined to acquire several other names during her life. She was called Thelma Ruth, Auntie Ruthie, First Chair Cellist, Talibah, Thelma, Miss Moore and Mrs. Coward, Sis Moore and Sis Ruth, Dr. Moore and Dr. Moore- Steward and maybe her most beloved title, Grandma Ruth. Each of these names and titles expressed who she was and the things she most cherished in life: family, faith and education.
Ruth began her long and cherished educational journey at Columbia Elementary School in Cleveland. She promoted to Patrick Henry Jr. High completing the Seventh Grade before the family moved to Compton, CA in January, 1961. She completed junior high school at Willowbrook Jr High in Compton. In 1965, she graduated from Centennial High School in Compton. At each of these school levels, her love and thirst for education became more apparent as she flourished becoming a top scholar at each level. She was inspired by a dream, a revelation of her father who envisioned her as State Superintendent of Schools. With this as her goal, she began preparation. She attended University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Throughout the years when she’d hear complaints of something being too hard to do, she would often relate to her many nieces and nephew how she had ridden the bus to UCLA from Compton. She’d express to them how they needed to do whatever was necessary to reach their goals. She left UCLA for a while due to financial reasons; attending Compton Community College as she worked and attained financing. She eventually continued her education at California State University at Dominquez Hills (CSUDH). Here she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree and her Master’s Degree. Her highest educational degree being a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California (USC).
Miss Moore began her long illustrious education career teaching in Inglewood, CA. She soon became a counselor. In November of 1973, she married Clifton Vernard Coward (Vern), a man who was also called by his middle name by his family and friends. This marriage ended in divorce, having borne no children. Mrs. Coward moved on to become a Principal at Kennedy High School in the La Palma School District before the age of 30. She met the person who would become her career mentor, Dr. Leonard Burns. Dr. Burns invited Dr. Moore to become an Assistant Superintendent in a School District where he was to become Superintendent. So in 1984, shortly after the burial of her Mother, she moved to St. Louis, MO becoming the first Black Assistant Superintendent of an elite suburban school district. After a few years she accepted an Assistant Superintendent position in Boston, Mass. She later moved back to California and became the Superintendent of the School District in Richmond, CA. Subsequently, Dr. Moore was hired as an Assistant Superintendent in the Compton Unified School District. During this assignment she met her second husband, John Steward. They married in July, 1994 and remained so until her death. It was through this marriage that she was able to fulfill her dream of being a parent. John has 2 sons who subsequently married providing her with the daughters she always wanted. When John’s younger son and his wife had 2 sons she was able to experience being a Grandmother which was one of her greatest joys in life.
Dr. Moore-Steward spent the last 20 years of her career as a Professor. She served 6 years at California State University at Long Beach. During this time, she concurrently taught classes at USC, her alma mater. She completed her career with over 10 years of service at California State University at San Bernardino. She retired in the 2015 Fall Semester but continued to teach part time until her death. She was actually scheduled to administer the final exam for her last class on the evening of the day of her passing.
Throughout the years, Ruth has always lived a full life. No matter what name she was called at any stage of her life she loved shopping; anytime, anywhere and for anything. She was definitely a collector, with a special love of ethnic artifacts and art. Her love of travel has taken her to Africa twice, once to Senegal and the Gambia. On the second trip she went to the Western and Central parts of the continent. She, of course, did a lot of shopping and collecting, coming back with items for everyone. She accompanied a student group from CSUSB to China; this trip also facilitated lots of shopping. Celebrating her 65th birthday in Maui with sisters, nieces and friends was one of her favorite trips. Her stateside travels include a recent just-for-fun trip to Vegas. Her hobby of genealogy has taken her to many southern states to do research. Auntie Ruthie has through the years taken nieces and nephews and her grandsons on trips for “exposure” like taking them to New York to see a play and to Atlanta to visit HBCUs. And there are the biannual Family Reunions which she originally took on as one of her projects. She loves to plan, organize and take charge. It was in her family life that she had to be reminded of her name, Ruth/Auntie Ruthie, not Dr. Moore or Dr. Moore-Steward. Her proclivity to take charge led one of her young grand-nieces to ask “Is Auntie Ruthie the President of this family?” Anyone who came in contact with her in any capacity would quickly learn that she loved to talk. She was certainly born to educate and she never limited her instruction to the classroom. She was an avid CNN and MSNBC watcher and could talk politics for extended periods of time. Her expertise in all aspects of education was always freely shared and often sought by family members, friends, and students, former students and even strangers. (Because anyone she came into contact with was not a stranger once she talked to her/him.)
Faith has been a major component of her entire life. As a child, she had to be involved in all available church activities. But as a young woman she made the conscious choice to become a Christian, taking on a new name of Sis. Moore and Sister Ruth. She attended several churches: Christ Temple Church of Christ Holiness in Los Angeles, Maranatha Community Church in Los Angeles, First Church of God in Inglewood and within the past few years, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Her faith, compelled and created a passion for helping and encouraging others, especially her nieces and nephews. She spent many hours advising, making calls, writing letters and guiding their school and academic choices. She was also financially supportive sending small monthly contributions. She contributed to various local and national charities and medical research institutions such as City of Hope, Lupus Foundation, and Sickle-Cell Foundation. She sponsored African children via various charities. She participated in several cancer walks, organizing teams to fundraise. Talibah also participated in many civic, and civil rights groups such as PUSH, NAACP and a mentoring program administered through the 100 Black Women of Los Angeles.
In Thelma’s full to capacity life, she always found room for music. She was a very accomplished cellist, a wonderful alto and tenor vocalist, participating in family, church and community choirs for most of her life.
As an adult, she adopted a healthy lifestyle. She began eating healthier and exercising regularly. Unfortunately, this change did not prevent her from being stricken with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer in 2011. Her health care providers stated that her strong physical condition is what enabled her to withstand some of her harsh cancer treatments. But on Wednesday morning March 23, 2016 God decided to relieve her of all suffering and transition her from this life to eternity.
She was preceded in death by her parents: Bessie Lee Patterson Moore and Ezekiel Moore; 2 siblings: Lillian Carol Moore Jones and Leonard Russell Moore; 1 sister-in-law: Synolve Vashti Moore; 1 brother-in law: Leander Ford; 1 niece and 1 daughter-in-law: Carolyn Steward. She is survived by her husband John Steward; ten siblings: Melvin Henry Moore, Ralph Lee Moore, Arthur James Moore, Ethel Delores Moore-Ford, Dorothy Ellen Moore-Brown, Elizabeth Moore Burt, Lloyd Edward Moore (Ima), Francis Ezekiel Moore (Cheryl), Catherine P Moore Primus (Chris), and Paul Andrew Moore (Jacquelyn); 1 sister-in-law: Peggy Moore; over 80 nieces and nephews; many maternal and paternal cousins; 2 grandsons: Jabari and Asaiah Steward; 1 daughter-in-law, La Tanya Leslie; 2 stepsons: Julius and Jabari Steward; and a host of extended family, colleagues and friends.