Baseball manager Leo Durocher raised cynicism to a new level when he said, “Nice guys finish last.” How wrong he was in the case of Ruth Bugdanowitz Toltz.
Ruth Toltz finished first in so many ways: in business, in family, in community, in that delicate balance between being a support for her husband, the unforgettable Warren Toltz, and being a distinctive leader in her own right; and, perhaps most of all, in middot or personal characteristics: kindness, attentiveness, caring, wisdom, leadership.
If you’re wondering why the Warren and Ruth Toltz Young Leadership Award still holds its cache, it’s because these two sterling leaders have left their own descendants and disciples. Those inspired by Ruth and Warren Toltz match their parents’ and mentors’ participation in business and philanthropy, thus familiarizing the Toltz name for the current and coming generations. So it is, and so it will be, that so many feel the deep sense of loss over the passing of Ruth Toltz even if they never knew her.
When Ruth Toltz entered the room, people felt comfortable. When she articulated an opinion, people listened. Many of the people who will earn the esteemed Warren and Ruth Toltz Award will never experience these qualities directly, but the memories of the Toltzes will live on, touching the award recipients because of the many contemporary friends Ruth had and the many younger people she inspired.
The occupational hazard of those who exercise leadership in many fields is spreading oneself too thin. Ruth Toltz embodied the opposite. She was always with you, always focused, always kind, not rushed; a person who knew how to be both a parent and a friend, both a spouse and a businesswoman, both a person who could steep herself in the details and could relax. Immaculately dressed, with her easy smile, without fanfare, Ruth Toltz accomplished much, not least in leaving behind that most precious of all legacies: a good name.
One reason that Ruth Toltz could engender future generations is because she was loyal to past generations. She followed in the footsteps of her mother Esther Bugdanowitz, a pioneer woman in business, and of her grandparents whose contributions in a circumscribed world blossomed into their granddaughter’s emergence as a leader of major organizations in and out of the Jewish community, from the Allied Jewish Federation to the Denver Art Museum.
It is painful to associate Ruth’s passing with the loss of a circle of family leadership in such a short time. Ruth’s brother Rick Bugdanowitz, as well as Rick’s wife Sheila Bugdanowitz of the Rose Community Foundation, not to mention Warren — and now Ruth herself — leave us reeling for their departure within the span of a couple of years. Yet, each is remembered individually, even as they continue to inspire us collectively. Our community is blessed for having known them and benefited from their leadership and camaraderie, their example and their inclusiveness.
Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News