WILKES-BARRE — Businessman Bob Tambur called her “a little girl from Korn Krest.”
Tambur was talking about the late real estate professional Ruth K. Smith, who died Monday.
Tambur said he met Smith nearly 40 years ago and they became instant friends. He said Smith always referred to herself as “just a little girl from Korn Krest,” in Hanover Township.
“What she did, building her real estate company is remarkable,” Tambur said. “And she did it through hard work, humor and enthusiasm. Ruth was a very special person.”
Tambur said Smith sold him his golf course — Blue Ridge — in Mountain Top.
“I’ll miss that twinkle in her eyes,” Tambur said. “I’ll miss her great laugh and her sense of humor. I will always have great admiration for that little girl from Korn Krest who went to work and accomplished so much in her life.”
Smith had three children, Kevin, Ruth (Hollander) and Olin (Olie). Her children said Smith was a lady who was loved and admired by all who knew her.
Smith’s daughter Ruthie said her mom had so many varied interests — she loved just about everything.
“But she especially loved people,” her daughter said. “She loved striking up conversations with strangers only to walk away as friends.”
Hollander said her mother was absolutely everything to her — always putting everyone else’s needs before her own.
“She made us feel loved and cherished and worked tirelessly to be sure that we all had everything we needed,” Hollander aid. “She had an incredible zest for life, which is what makes it so hard to imagine a world without her. She was fun.”
Kevin Smith, the oldest of the three children, said his mother loved to go for Sunday boat rides on Harveys Lake, always bringing snacks and drinks for all on board. He said his mother’s last boat ride came just a week before she fell ill.
Kevin talked about special times with his mom and the family, especially around holidays.
“Mom always had some fun ideas at Christmas, including cloth snowballs for indoor snowball fights,” he said.
On birthdays, Kevin said his mother would make the kids write jokes to bring to dinner to get the party started.
“She would put them in a paper bag and pull them out one at a time with each guest reading a random joke,” Kevin said. “One outstanding thing about Ruth K. Smith is that she never got old.”
Olie is Ruth’s youngest child. He talked about his mother’s real estate signs that were often seen throughout the area. Olie said in the beginning, those signs were few and far between.
“Then, she needed more, then more, then more,” he said. “My mom and those signs, over time, eventually changed the landscape for real estate sales in Northeastern Pennsylvania forever.”
Ollie works as a commercial and industrial real estate appraiser. He often runs into people who know his mother.
“These were all words from people who really didn’t have to express to me their moments with my mom, but they did because she was important enough to them to share their feelings with her youngest son,” Olie said. “I am so fortunate to have had so many of those encounters. Every one made me feel proud beyond words.”
Olie expects to continue to hear those stories for the rest of his life.
“So, thanks mom, you done good,” he said.
Dawn Gaudino, a close friend of Smith’s, said she most loved how much she cared about people. When she helped her look for her home, she said Smith was careful to assure it was exactly what Gaudino needed and wanted.
“She talked me out of a few places,” Gaudino said. “She wanted to be sure I was going to be genuinely happy. It wasn’t about making a sale — it was about making her customers happy. She would never steer you wrong.”
Gaudino said Smith loved Manhattan — the city and the drink. She said she was full of energy and was always on the go, even to sing karaoke.
“She never got tired,” Gaudino said. “I never heard her say she was exhausted.”
When asked how old his mother was, Kevin Smith said, “You would have to ask her.” In other words, never ask that question.
Jack Moran, former owner of Guaranty Bank, said he and his wife were friends of Smith for more than 40 years.
“She was a wonderful woman,” Moran recalled. “We bought our first house from her. I can only say good things about her.”
Moran said Smith helped countless people and always had “a project” that she was working on to benefit those in need.
“I can’t say enough about Ruth Smith and it’s all good,” Moran said. “We really loved her and we will always miss her.”
Businessman John Metz called Smith “a tremendous entrepreneur,” who built her business from scratch.
“And she was a very giving, generous person and very humble,” Metz said. “She was always doing something for others.”
Pat Greenfield, former owner of Grico’s Restaurant in Exeter, said Smith was “a real character” who had a lot of friends — from twenty-somethings to eighty-somethings.
“Ruthie related well to everybody,” Greenfield said. “About a year ago I was visiting and we met for a drink. We went out to dinner with a former manager of mine. The next day, my manager called me to tell me she never laughed so much as she did listening to Ruthie’s stories.”
Attorney Alan Kluger said Smith was a client and a dear friend.
“She was certainly honest, hard-working and loved by her clients,” said Kluger. “She was also devoted to her family and they were a deep source of comfort for her. She was a lady in every sense of the word. Everybody loved her — she was lovable — and she did everything with a smile. She did everything with class.”
Smith’s children said their mother believed in supporting small businesses, which entailed making stops at each and every specialty store to be sure there was kosher chicken, ham and kielbasa, pigs in the blanket, pies and welsh cookies on hand — and always ginger snaps or some other goodies in the jar on her desk.
“Ruth loved a party and the party loved her,” her obituary states. “She was entertaining by nature, captivating those around her in a way that only she could. Her fashion sense was impeccable, her zest for life undeniable and her love and concern for helping others unsurpassed. She enjoyed life right up to the moment of her illness and then passed with grace, dignity and courage.
“We love her very much, always will. She will be missed by family and friends — and remembered forever.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.