Aunt Ruth

Ruth Buchanan, pictured in her garden. As seen here, she often wore her esteemed Emblem of Honor over her heart. (Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library)

Night after night during World War II, a receptionist at the Exhibit Museum would return home from work to her second job: writing to U-M students, faculty, staff and alumni serving in the war. “Aunt Ruth,” as Ruth Buchanan was affectionately known, considered the students her family. She wrote 17,828 letters, 6,952 birthday cards, and 7,398 get-well cards, in addition to mailing more than 57,000 copies of The Michigan Daily. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commended her support of the troops, and she received the venerated Emblem of Honor usually bestowed on mothers with four or more sons on the front. However, her greatest impact was on the correspondents themselves. Said one: “Aunt Ruth, you’re one in a million and each of us has a warm spot in our heart for you and all you’re doing.”

— Adapted from “Dear Aunt Ruth” by Kim Clarke, U-M Heritage Project


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