Joan B. Ruffins of Sag Harbor died at Stony Brook University Hospital on May 31. She was 81.
Born in Chicago on May 30, 1932, to Vivian and O’dell Young, she graduated from New York City’s High School of Music and Art and attended The Cooper Union from 1952 to 1954. She married in 1954, and after she became pregnant was asked to leave the school, an act of sexism that was rectified in 1979 when Cooper Union conferred a well-earned certificate of completion, her family said. Ms. Ruffins was a longtime resident of Sag Harbor, summering in Nineva Beach since 1961 and moving there permanently in 1992. Before that she lived and raised her family in Queens.
Ms. Ruffins loved to read, cook, garden and entertain. According to her survivors, she and her husband, Reynold, who survives her, welcomed all into their home with great conviviality. Many learned about cooking, baking and wine from Ms. Ruffins, who also enjoyed traveling and loved the mountains of Vermont, the countryside of Michigan, and the local bay and ocean.
Survivors said family was most important to Ms. Ruffins. They added that she was a “quiet force and influential figure in many people’s lives, a wise and thoughtful person who cared for many and was beloved by more.”
Survivors described Ms. Ruffins as a strong, honest, unsentimental woman who was at the same time tactful and kind as well as insightful, curious and nonjudgmental. She had “a beautiful energy,” they said, adding that she was “the glue binding the family.”
In addition to her husband, she is survived by four children, Todd Ruffins of Sag Harbor, Lynn Cave and husband Curtis of Brooklyn, Ben Ruffins and wife Deborah of Queens and Seth Ruffins and wife Susan of California; six grandchildren, Rebecca, Ranger, Seth, Alexandra, Theodore and Olivia; a sister, Joyce Holmes and husband Al of Virginia; and dozens of nieces, nephews and extended family.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor.