Shaftsbury's first 'Ordinary Hero' dies at 90

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SHAFTSBURY — Last week, Shaftsbury lost one of its heroes.

Ruth Levin, author, historian, business owner, and community fixture in Shaftsbury, died last Wednesday at the age of 90.

Levin, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, moved to Shaftsbury with her husband, Ed Levin, in 1953. They continued the jewelry business they had opened in New York, selling jewelry as well as Ed's pottery, sculpture, and paintings out of their home, according to Levin's obituary. Ruth was a founding member of the Shaftsbury Historical Society, and wrote "Ordinary Heroes: The Story of Shaftsbury."

"The Shaftsbury Historical would not be what it is today without the efforts of Ruth Levin," said its president Mitch Race. "She was a founding member of the organization and the author of the only book about Shaftsbury."

He said Levin was the organization's secretary for 45 years, and kept meticulous notes. She was a, "champion for all and was a stalwart of inclusion and diversity. She always maintained a genuine and welcoming smile and was always generous in concern for others," added Race.

Levin spent much of time serving community organizations, among them the former Bennington League of Women Voters. She often took her three young children to Shaftsbury Town Meetings in order to show them how to be better, involved and informed citizens. Levin studied writing, informally, and got her short stories published in Redbook, the Jewish Currents Reader, and others. She was also a contributor to the Bennington Banner.

"With her passing, Shaftsbury, Bennington County and the State of Vermont have lost a pillar of the community. She will be greatly missed," said Race.

In 2014, Levin was honored by the Historical Society and the Vermont Legislature as Shaftsbury's first "Ordinary Hero." The announcement came as a complete surprise to Levin, who was presented by State Sen. Dick Sears and Shaftsbury State Rep. Alice Miller with a resolution, signed by the Vermont General Assembly, which listed her many accomplishments, and concluded, "Therefore be it resolved: That today, April 13, 2014, is declared Ordinary Heroes Day in Shaftsbury and is devoted to honoring Ruth Levin, whose public recognition is long overdue."

Levin's response to receiving the framed resolution was simply, "I think you're talking about the wrong person!"

"It's been a pleasure to know you over the years, and I'm so proud to be here today to celebrate this," said Sears to Levin after the ceremony.

The award, named after Levin's book, is now given annually by the society. The subsequent recipients were Ken Coonradt, Brenda and George Keen, and Timothy Finney. The 2018 Ordinary Hero will be announced next spring.

Tyler Resch, historian with the Bennington Museum, who worked with Levin on "Ordinary Heroes," during the Ordinary Hero ceremony praised the hard work Levin had put into the book. "This is a wonderful occasion," he said, "and I can't think of anyone more deserving than Ruth."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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