Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona

Lanny Kope: A wonderful lady, Ruth Britton, has left us

We have lost a Cochise County treasure.

Ruth Britton, who has been a stalwart member of our community, has taken her place in eternity.

Ruth was a selfless lynchpin of Cochise County and someone you would describe as being a compassionate and caring individual.

I had the pleasure and privilege of being called “friend” for many years as we served together on the board of directors of the Legacy Foundation.

It was always heartwarming to watch her find ways to help those organizations in distress. She would assess organizations with a compassionate eye and seek to go beyond charitable expectations.

I often wondered if her desire to help someone was founded in her military upbringing as an Army brat and an Army wife.

Wherever the Army stationed Ruth and her husband, Joe, she was an active community member and educator. The Army’s Seventh Corps recognized Ruth with the Helping Hands Award for Volunteer Service for her contributions as an Army wife.

One proud accomplishment, which she related to me, was helping people learn a critical life skill — how to read.

Ruth was a reading teacher, reading department chairperson and emeritus faculty member at Cochise College, Douglas campus. She would drive to the Douglas campus each day to discharge her duties. And while some might think this was an arduous task, Ruth enjoyed the beautiful sunrises that were her morning companions.

Her deep dedication to her students manifested itself in the many recognitions and accolades she received.

Some of these included being the recipient of the Arizona Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism, as well as being an inductee of the Hall of Fame at Cochise College. She also was named Teacher of the Year for Turkey Creek Junior High School in Plant City, Florida.

One honor that is special for a teacher is student regard, and her students manifested that honor by naming her Cochise College’s Outstanding Instructor.

Margaret Hepburn, CEO of the Legacy Foundation, commented, “Ruth served as a board director on the Sierra Vista Regional Health Center Foundation Board and then on the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona Board for more than 16 years; she was the quintessential board director. Ruth was always deeply committed, community focused, outcome oriented, kind, respectful and our much respected word-maven. The Legacy Foundation has lost an amazing mentor, community advocate, leader and an individual who was always there when needed. We honor, love and miss Ruth, a true community treasure.”

A colleague, Joanna Michelich, retired provost of Cochise Community College and board chair of the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona, described Ruth as “being first and foremost among the most accomplished, dedicated, passionate, generous, selfless and caring individuals I have ever known, who lived her life with intention and integrity. She was the consummate professional as a faculty member/department chair for the college and was known for being among its most student-centered instructors, especially for underprepared students; she was a volunteer ‘par excellence’ in the larger community who dedicated countless hours in service to others and was recognized for her selfless service as recipient of the 2015 AZ Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service; and she was a wonderful, caring, loving, supportive, and genuine close friend who I’ll miss dearly.”

Through her work on the board of the Legacy Foundation, she was instrumental in providing an opportunity for the migrant workers who lived in Winchester Heights, a rural community north of Willcox, to improve their quality of life.

She also was instrumental, through the Legacy Foundation, to cause the capstone gift be given to the Salvation Army when it was struggling to build its new Community Center in Sierra Vista.

Ruth also brought an international flavor to her community efforts through her Legacy Foundation activities, helping the Naco Wellness Institute and its health care activities across the border. The institute focused on helping Naco residents fight diabetes and a shortage of health care services.

Those of us who worked and volunteered with Ruth recognized the valuable philanthropic and community service she rendered to our community. Ruth was a volunteer’s volunteer.

We miss her.

Lanny A. Kope, EdD has been a hospital trustee for over 40 years, serving on urban and rural hospital boards. He is the past Board Chair of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center and has had a national responsibility as Chair of the American Hospital Association’s Committee on Governance. Dr. Kope is also a University of Phoenix faculty member in Health Care.

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