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Remembering Ruth Finley
By Beth Shapiro, Executive Director
August 28, 2018
Ruth Finley, matriarch of New York’s fashion industry, philanthropist and longtime Board Member of Citymeals on Wheels passed away on Saturday, August 25th at the age of 98. A central figure in the city’s fashion world for seven decades, Ruth is best known for creating The Fashion Calendar in 1945, a clearinghouse that still keeps the schedule for New York Fashion Week.
Ruth’s generous support of Citymeals began in our earliest days – 1983 – when it was still a program supervised by the Department for the Aging. Moved by the homebound elderly she met on a meal delivery, Ruth rallied her fashion world friends and spearheaded some of the organization’s first fundraisers.
Her Fashion and Beauty Industry Salute to Citymeals was the first annual event in Citymeals’ history. Ever the master of ceremonies, Ruth could often be found spinning the raffle tumbler and calling out the winners. Ruth’s influence can still be felt – the industry friends she recruited continue to support Citymeals to this day.
Ruth was particularly struck by her frail aged neighbors who had worked in the garment trade, an economic powerhouse that made New York City a fashion capital. “I have visited many of the people who receive food from Citymeals on Wheels. These people are not only grateful for the food, they are also hungry for human interaction,” she once explained.
Ruth was first and foremost a business leader – long before women achieved equity in the workplace. Partial to pink and red dresses, Ruth’s demure appearance belied her tenacity and acumen. With only a typewriter, carbon copies and an addressograph machine, she started The Fashion Calendar out of her small apartment on 52nd Street after journalist friends complained of conflicting events.
With its unforgettable pink pages, The Fashion Calendar became a bible in the industry and elevated Ruth, who took on a role as ambassador, referee and counselor to stars as well as up-and-comers. In 2014, Ruth sold her beloved enterprise to the Council of Fashion Designers of America which now operates the calendar.
Citymeals is deeply gratefully for Ruth's steadfast generosity through the years. We extend our sympathy to her family, including her sons Jim, Joe and Larry and their spouses, her nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Ruth’s impact on the lives of homebound elderly New Yorkers can hardly be measured and it will long be remembered.