Ruth J. Rainer, psychologist, teacher, world traveler, and volunteer, has died at 97

Ruth J. Rainer, 97, of Elverson, retired psychologist, mental health teacher, world traveler, and volunteer, died Wednesday, Dec. 14, of heart failure at the Watermark at Bellingham retirement community in West Chester.

A gregarious adventurer full of energy and advice, Ms. Rainer had a psychology practice in Paoli and elsewhere for more than three decades and was coordinator of consultation and education for what is now Chester County’s Department of Mental Health, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

She became a world traveler, especially after her second husband died in 1994, and spent months every year for decades at her “home away from home” in Venice, Italy. She escorted her children and grandchildren on unforgettable vacations to England, Wales, Scotland, Greece, Norway, and Japan and made it a point to meet new people and immerse herself in whichever culture she lived.

“She was a fabulous guide,” said her son Dick.

She was a volunteer for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Philadelphia Orchestra, hosted parties for famed conductor Eugene Ormandy and his musicians, and welcomed children from New York’s Fresh Air Fund into her Gladwyne home nearly every summer for years.

“I loved Ruth’s zest for life and how she lived it to the fullest every day,” a friend said in a tribute. Her son Douglas said: “I could go on forever about how she impacted my life and many others.”

Ms. Rainer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from the Universities of Delaware and Hartford in the 1970s, opened her own practice in the 1980s, and taught mental health classes about stress, fear, rejection, and other topics in the 1990s at the Southern Chester County Medical Center, now Penn Medicine Southern Chester County.

In 1988, The Inquirer interviewed Ms. Rainer at a mental health information event at Coatesville Area Senior High School that coincided with that year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week. She said that teens often protect friends by hiding their problems and that it was important for them to say, “I love you too much to keep a secret that may kill you.”

She earned a nursing degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943 and later focused her psychology practice on divorce, suicide, and family trauma. She was “always ready to discuss life’s big questions in a compassionate way,” her family said in a tribute.

She celebrated her 80th birthday with a trip around the world on the Queen Elizabeth 2, rode a camel in Egypt, and counseled clients until just a few years ago. Her family noted her “curiosity and love of learning.”

Born Oct. 28, 1925, in Upper Lehigh, Pa., Ruth Janice Holland attended a one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade, graduated from Hazleton High School in 1943, and attended every nursing class reunion at Penn until no one else showed up a few years ago .

She met Francis J. Rabiolo at Penn, and they married in 1947 and changed their name to Rainer in 1954 when they founded the Rainer & Co. accounting firm. They lived in Drexel Hill, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, and Gladwyne, and had sons Brad, Dick, and Douglas and daughters Diane, Janice, and Nancy.

After a divorce in 1973, she married Dietmar Schmidtke in 1989. Her husband, former husband, and son Brad died earlier.

Eclectic and lively, Ms. Rainer enjoyed gardening, cooking, camping, and reading. She was active at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Honey Brook, visited a nearby pool to swim almost every day for years, and took adult classes in all sorts of topics at a local college.

She went to craft shows, drove to Colorado one year, and hosted family gatherings well into her 90s. A friend called her a “treasured memory” and “beautiful spirit” in a tribute.

She collected hats, ate strawberries and whipped cream straight from the can, engaged with practically anyone anywhere, and her colorful stories and sprightly conversation made her countless friends. “She was right at home with anyone she met,” said her daughter Janice. “She was remarkable in that she lived the life she wanted to live.”

Her granddaughter Jessica Sharp said: “She was an interesting, complex, and wonderful person.”

In addition to her children and granddaughter, Ms. Rainer is survived by nine other grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, a sister, and other relatives.

Visitation with the family is set for 9:30 am Tuesday, Jan. 3, in the chapel at St. Mary of Providence Center, 227 Isabella Rd., Elverson, Pa. 19520. It is to be followed by a memorial service at 11 am and a reception.

Donations in her name may be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1040 Chestnut Tree Rd., Honey Brook, Pa. 19344.

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