Obituary | Ruth Mary Turpin

Ruth Mary Turpin was born in 1935 to Ruth and George Bless of Pasadena. She lived the majority of her youth on Rubio Drive, Altadena, at the base of Mount Wilson, with her two brothers George Bless Jr. of Cincinnati and Craig Bless of Ontario. She was also very close to her Bay Area family — the Beltons and Wardens, with whom she spent countless summers and holidays.
Ruth attended Pasadena High School and graduated from Blair High before attending UC Berkeley as an English major.
Ruth was very social at Cal, joining Gamma Phi Beta sorority, a group of women with whom she remained friends her entire life. Her sorority sisters remember her as possessing incredible confidence, wit and a keen intuition understanding other people, her friends and family. Ruth possessed a natural charisma that established trust with anyone she met, and with her sparkling turquoise eyes, gorgeous smile and jet-black hair, it was impossible to not share your life story with her. She was a wonderful listener and offered great advice on life.
The combination of her innate people skills and compassion proved too much for a recent Cal graduate, Miles Turpin, who had returned to Cal while on leave in 1955 to visit his fraternity brothers. It would be a love story that crossed six decades and four boys. The two fell in love, with Ruth choosing to forgo her junior year to marry her dashing second lieutenant.
After being stationed briefly in Fort Lewis in Washington, the couple returned to South Pasadena and eventually to San Marino, where the family lived from 1960 through 1990, raising their four sons and engaging in many community-based activities. They were married for more than 63 years.
Ruth Turpin was a serial entrepreneur and an iconoclast at a time when women were expected to speak softly and subordinate themselves to their families. She ran a flexible and loving ship, applying her skills and interests to ensuring that her sons achieved academic success and that they remained open to a range of ideas, religions and philosophies of living that, at times, was questioned by more orthodox acquaintances who held more rigid views of rearing children in a time of major social change.
Ruth managed to return to college in the 1980s to proudly complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Redlands. She became an avid technology expert and was always on the cutting edge of purchasing and adopting new methods of managing her interests and family. She was one of the first of her peers to purchase and master Apple’s IMac — inspiring other women to also invest in their own personal development.
After years of helping family and the children of friends navigate the complicated and, at times, arbitrary calculus of college applications, she started her own business, College Applications Consulting. She was again a suburban pioneer, offering inexpensive college advice to help kids find the right school for their skills and maturity levels. Her foray into replicating duties typically performed part time by high school educators put her at odds with school administrators and faculty who questioned the necessity of more focused tutoring for kids attempting to attend a college that was right for them. She understood each kid brought a host of unique circumstances, and as a result, each required a level of understanding and time to match them with an environment that might best set them up for success. Her popularity brought pressure on the school district to improve its resources and quality of college preparatory services.
Ruth was a huge fan of small colleges and felt that young people, particularly boys, had a better chance of achieving their goals in a structured environment anchored by strong academics and NCAA and intramural sports. By 1990, Ruth had more than 800 surrogate kids and had college applicants calling her from all over the country requesting her help. She never advertised and would not charge more than she felt clients could handle — often barely covering the cost of her business. As with her children and family, it was a labor of love.
Ruth often had to subordinate her own desires to manage a tight budget governed by four college tuitions and the myriad unexpected expenses that arise from shepherding a family of four sons. To make ends meet and generate revenue to fund her interests, she became expert in certain areas of business and started her own firm. At the same time, she remained a critical partner to her husband, who rose to become CEO of the Western Region for Grey Advertising. Miles always referred to her as his “secret weapon and love of his life.”
Ruth possessed tremendous empathy and extrasensory insights into people. She was self-educated on the stock market, business leadership and commercial real estate. She was highly curious and successfully invested the money she earned from these businesses into heavily researched stocks and the purchase of rental homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods.
She was a beloved grandmother of seven grandchildren and a larger-than-life Auntie Mame, hosting holiday parties and constantly surprising family with unexpected gifts — money she credited as a donation from the family dog’s college fund. She was a big believer in self-reliance, self-awareness and always knowing every friend who might find their way into their children’s lives. She insisted her kids have jobs each summer and that they participated in some athletic or creative activity to minimize the risks of idle hands.
Ruth’s radius of empathy and caring extended across 50 years as an engaged parent, and nonjudgmental friend. A day still does not go by that someone will not reference some way she helped them at a critical juncture of their lives — convincing them to return to college, recover from a divorce, build their resume, or consider life changes to improve their chances at being happy. It did not matter whether that person was a family member, friend, acquaintance or stranger.
She cried at old movies and was a repository of knowledge on old Hollywood and salacious gossip. She knew people and applied this with a balance of carrot and stick. Life was about choices and consequences. Her favorite motto was “There are no bad kids, only bad choices. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
Ruth understood that not every kid received good counsel at home on how to act or even compete in a flat, crowded world and she made it her mission to prepare anyone she met for the vagaries of life that might lie ahead. Her nickname was “Sodium Pentothal,” as she could extract a confession or personal secrets from any human being — especially a guilt-ridden kid. She was truly a renaissance woman who broke all the conventional shackles of 1950s male-dominated tradition and insisted on equal status and respect for women in relationships and in business.
In later years, she was diagnosed with and suffered from Parkinson’s disease and complications related to its symptoms. She still managed to spend time with family, and on occasion her charisma would return and once again perfume our lives with beautiful blue eyes and laughter as we recounted the stories of our raucous lives navigating the ’60s and ’70s.
Ruth is survived and missed terribly by her husband, Miles Joseph Turpin of Manhattan Beach, along with sons Miles George Turpin of Ridgefield, Connecticut; Thomas Turpin of West Los Angeles; Michael Turpin of New Canaan, Connecticut; and Patrick Turpin of Manhattan Beach. She also leaves behind four daughters-in-law — Brooke, Dee Dee, Caroline and Christine — as well as seven beloved grandchildren: Heidi, Natalie, Maddie, Brooke, Cole, Miles and Nicholas.
We are forever grateful to Teresa Palma and a host of caregivers who worked so tirelessly to allow my parents to remain together for more than two decades in their home. Ruth and Miles, we’re together at the very end and will be reunited again — and she will once again be in charge!
Ruthie was deeply loved. Her laughter, curiosity, inability to be shocked and trust with her sons made her the most trusted mom in our circle of friends and an ombudsman between Old Testament parenting of old-school fathers and the softer psychology of modern parental experts who advocated teaching kids how to share and cope with their troubles and decisions. She was as wonderful a mother as any son could every desire. We love you, Ruthie!
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to michaeljfox.org.

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