Ruth Williams, an icon of the Omaha advertising and broadcasting community in the 1970s and ’80s, died on October 24th in Omaha. Ruth, an AAF Omaha Lifetime member was 91. Born Willa Ruth Lewis in Springfield, Missouri, in 1925, she graduated from William Jewell College in 1946 and taught high-school English in Liberty, Missouri, before her marriage to Tom Williams in 1950. She won a national short-story award while in high school and a poetry award in college, and continued to write poetry after her marriage, including a poem published in the national magazine McCall’s. After moving with her family to the Council Bluffs/Omaha area in 1960, she began entertaining community groups by writing and performing what she called “pianologues” — comedy routines and songs set to music she had composed. She was working part-time in the coat department at Kilpatrick’s department store when these performances brought her to the attention of the advertising community, and she went to work for Branded Advertising, a corporate agency. She later moved to television station WOW-TV (now WOWT), first as continuity director and later (in 1972) as creative director. She was active in the Omaha Federation of Advertising (now AAF Omaha) and the Omaha Press Club. Her performances as one of the “Ladies in the Front Pew” were audience favorites for many years in the Press Club’s annual gridiron show.
Ann Pedersen from OBI Creative remembers Ruth as a mentor and friend, “Ruth was one of the first individuals I met when I arrived at WOW (now WOWT) in 1974. Her office decorated in bright colors and featured a dictionary the size of one usually found in a library. She was a stickler for proper use of the English language. I soon discovered she was a force of nature – and then I discovered she was a loving, dear friend – first to me, then to my family. That lasted for more than 40 years. Ruth lived life with style and grace. She will be missed.”
Ruth retired from WOWT in 1987 after winning many industry awards. Ruth was honored with the Omaha Federation of Advertising’s (now AAF Omaha) Silver Medal Award in 1991. Ruth worked to increase the stature and raise the standard of the advertising profession for many years. Teri Hamburger, AAF Omaha’s Executive Director recalled, “For many years even after retiring from WOWT Ruth continued to attend AAF Omaha luncheons and fundraising events. If an educational luncheon program topic was of interest to Ruth she would attend to stay current with Omaha’s advertising community and industry trends.” Ruth also served as a reading tutor at Miller Park Elementary School and as a volunteer with All Saints Episcopal Church.
She is survived by her husband, Tom, and children Sara and Jim, all of Omaha, and two nieces, Nancy Sollwitz of Seattle and Susie Oberdahlhoff of Bowling Green, Mo.
Contributions for this post are from Ann Pedersen, OBI Creative and Teri Hamburger, AAF Omaha.