Our Cuernavaca community lost one of its dearest members when Ruth Geary passed away suddenly in October 2018. Originally from the Bay Area of California, Ruth loved Mexico and made it her home as well as her place of business. In July she celebrated the 5th anniversary of her beautiful boutique Hotel/Restaurant Gusto. The restaurant became a gathering place for expats and local residents, especially when she hosted her delightful Cenas de Maridaje. The tasting dinners with wine pairings started with generous cocktails in the splendid garden, then moved to round tables that facilitated conversation. The five-course, five-wine dinners were held periodically, and especially on important occasions like Day of the Dead. Ruth’s well-trained staff managed to serve each course to every table almost simultaneously. The courses were delightfully photogenic as well as delicious.
In addition, Ruth made her personal home a kind of community center where expats as well as Mexican friends came together to celebrate occasions like July 4 and St. Patrick’s Day. With incredible generosity, she provided a full bar and excellent wines to accompany delicious meals prepared by her staff and volunteers, often supplemented by edible donations from guests. Ruth entertained graciously and generously, enjoying herself despite the challenge of entertaining so many guests. It’s doubtful that the community will be so fortunate to ever find a hostess who gave so much of herself to the community, nor any way to replace the wonderful events she hosted. We can only savor them in our memories.
Friends of Ruth Geary gathered to remember her on January 14. We are grateful to David Larson and Dennis Banks, her closest friends in Cuernavaca, for spearheading this sentimental occasion, and for the contributions of others like Dita Emmet and Andrea Dolch. Janice and Glenn Mercurio who are managing the restaurant kindly arranged to open Gusto on a day it is normally closed. In addition to the author, several speakers shared their memories of Ruth. Sandy Aker raved about Ruth as entertainer par excellence. Andrea Dolch reminisced on how her friendship began with a real-estate search. Christy Simon became a soul mate of Ruth when they met in California many years ago. Kristina Roper Graber, Ruth’s college roommate knew Ruth longer than anyone else in attendance. Glenn Mercurio organized catering services for Ruth’s parties in California. Speakers chose to emphasize joyful memories and not dwell on the sad times and tragedy in Ruth’s life. Afterward, Ruth’s favorite Mariachi group performed, allowing us to imagine Ruth smiling from above.
Below is the text of my brief talk.
Two of Ruth’s attributes that impressed me most were her inimitable tolerance and her boundless generosity.
We can be grateful to her California upbringing, maturing in the Bay Area, a seedbed of tolerance of diversity. She learned early on not to disparage anyone’s race, religion, class, or sexual orientation, and she made that upbringing part of her very essence.
We could see some of Ruth’s openness in the diversity of guests she invited to her gatherings. What a remarkable conjunction of nationalities, of whites and browns, of Mexicans and Americans, Brits, Germans and Canadians. She mixed relative youngsters with some who seemed older than God. In Ruth’s world there was no place for ageism, racism, misogyny, or homophobia. Ruth embraced diversity before that word became popular. What more appropriate place for a Mormon State Senator to feel comfortable sharing his coming out experience. Same-sex couples never had to hide their love. She even welcomed straight white males. (I’m not sure how many caught my too-subtle humor in treating the last group as another minority).
Ruth didn’t have to be a feminist activist because her life was a paradigm of female endeavor and achievement. Imagine a foreign woman running a successful business in macho Mexico City. Then opening a challenging business like Gusto when, internationally, 80 percent of new restaurants close in the first year. What a pleasure it was to celebrate with her the fifth anniversary of Gusto in July of last year. What a pleasure to see her beaming with pride and joy that I think I captured in this photo of her on that occasion.
But Ruth did not flaunt her achievements, distinguishing herself with her gracious humility, bestowing credit instead on her wonderful Mexican staff that she treated like family.
The other attribute that Ruth exuded was her boundless generosity. Well, some might say, she could afford to be generous. But we know that some wealthy people can be very miserly. And true generosity is not a function of one’s wealth but of one’s character. Her benevolence was an intrinsic part of her nature, embodying the admonition of Kahlil Gibran that “he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup at your little stream.”
So my friends, if we wish to truly honor Ruth’s memory, it would behoove us to embrace Ruth’s virtues in our own lives, as I know many of you do. To be tolerant and non-judgmental, to be as generous as possible, not seeking recognition, but making generosity a part of our nature. If we can strive to do that, and share those values with those our lives touch, with every act of tolerance and generosity, we will have made Ruth’s decency into a memorial no carving in stone could possibly equal, a living memorial she so richly deserves.
To my mind, Ruth was the embodiment of Kahlil Gibran’s essay On Giving.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue.
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
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