Whenever a fight to save the environment surfaced, a feisty West Milford senior citizen was sure to be in front of the action.
She was so dedicated that she promised she would go to jail to support causes that she believed in – and she did - more than once. On one of those occasions the late Ruth Wiley Adams on March 20, 2013, was arrested and jailed in Washington, D.C. She was participating in a peaceful demonstration as a member of the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC).
‘The right thing to do’
Ruth loved the Christmas season. As she aged, her eyesight was failing but she still was able to operate her car around town. The outdoor lighting decorations throughout the township always delighted her.
As she drove around at Christmastime to see them a few years before her death on July 4, 2021, she had a motor vehicle accident.
Whether she was distracted while enjoying the displays or something else happened, she lost control of her car.
Uninjured, except for a blow to her personal pride, Ruth knew it was time to stop driving – and she did.
She sold her Otterhole Road home in West Milford and moved to Hawthorne in 2019.
Throughout her adult years Ruth often spoke to her friends and acquaintances about her environmental protection efforts. She said the IMAC people were an incredible group. Speaking of the Washington episode she said IMAC’s plan was to make it clear to then President Barack Obama that his inspired pledge to halt the destruction of the Earth from climate change required that he take bold and courageous action.
She said this included rejecting fracking and the Keystone XL sands pipeline.
She described her action in Washington with confidence that it was the right thing to do.
“We gathered in the street and on the White House lawn,” Adams recalled. “The assembled police first let us conduct a 45-minute religious service with a rabbi blowing a beautiful shofar, a Native American chanting prayer to the four directions and burning holy grasses, and a Muslim praying in Arabic with English traditions. Another rabbi described the ten modern plagues we are suffering because of global warming caused by corporate greed.”
Ruth, in speaking about her Washington adventure, said the activity replaced the ten plagues of Egypt that are usually recited at the Seder meal before they all ate part of a matzo.
The program continued with a properly robed deacon from St. John’s Cathedral in New York who described Christ’s ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as an act of civil disobedience against powers at the temple in league with the Romans.
Others shouted ‘Remember’
The spirited lady from West Milford said she was one of the volunteers who had already decided they would allow themselves to be arrested by police. She said those unwilling to have that happen to them moved to the opposite sidewalk and cheered for her and the others as police went into action.
“Police gave the first two or three warnings to clear the sidewalk,” Adams said. “We shouted the names, ages, location and cause of death of the victims of Hurricane Sandy while the others shouted ‘Remember.’”
After they provided police with their identifications those being arrested were photographed and handcuffed behind their backs.
Metal toilets and $100 fines
“There were 16 of us loaded into two paddy wagons,” said Adams. “We were driven – accompanied by eight motorcycle policemen with their sirens wailing – to the park police detention center in Anacostia. The eight women in my vehicle sang, chanted and we stomped our feet all the way. We learned later that the men in the other vehicle were more restrained.”
They were placed four to a cell – “metal toilet and all” – while officers struggled for quite some time to remove all of their cuffs for about two hours, Ruth shared. They then paid their $100 fines and were released to waiting friends who gave them food and drink and drove them to their cars, metro station, train station or wherever they needed to be to get start their trip back to their homes in New Jersey.
“What a rewarding day it was,” Adams said, announcing plans for the next big rally she would participate in a few months later.
A perfect time to remember this courageous lady
A lifelong resident of the township before moving to Hawthorne, Ruth had a successful career as a school librarian in West Milford and Kinnelon.
She was a graduate of Butler High School and Trenton State College.
Her volunteerism efforts are probably remembered at the United Methodist Churches in Newfoundland and Hawthorne, BPOE Lodge 2236 of West Milford, West Milford Newcomers Club and Franciscan Response to Fracking.
Christmas and all it meant to Ruth seems to be a perfect time to remember this courageous lady who loved the Earth and its people and strived every day to do good in the world.
- Ann Genader