September 5, 1909 to September 6, 2007
WALDO RUESS loved the world and all its people. He loved ginkgo trees and bamboo, chocolate and ice cream, elephants and red pandas. For most of his life, he thrived on long, brisk walks and swimming. He was a voracious reader and an excellent photographer, published in LIFE Magazine and books on China and World War II.
Waldo was born in Oakland, California, September 5, 1909, to Stella Knight Ruess and Christopher George Ruess. At the age of six, Waldo’s long travels commenced when his father accepted a job that required the family to move frequently. He lived in ten states and traveled through all but three when growing up. Between 1935 and 1958 he spent 18 years living and working in ten countries and visiting over 100 more. He was fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, and English and conversant in many others. He was known to some as “The Man from Everywhere.”
He served in the U.S. Foreign Service, stationed in the Embassies in Tokyo, Chunking, Algiers, and Moscow, 1939 to 1946, working primarily as a cryptographer. He was a Conscientious Objector and believed in resolving disputes with diplomacy rather than weaponry.
Waldo was always interested in people and their cultures. He was proud to have known people of all walks of life and origins, including some prominent figures in world history such as Chiang and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru, Wendell Willkie, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the current and previous Dalai Lama.
He had an amazingly varied work career. When working for Lockheed in Iceland in the early 1950s, he studied and wrote extensively about the Skolte Lapps which inspired Seumus, Chief of Clannfhearghuis to sponsor him for membership in the Explorers Club of New York. He also enjoyed membership in the Adventurers’ Club of Los Angeles and the Shanghai Tiffin Club of New York. His later work years were spent as a purchasing agent for the U.S. Forest Service – Los Padres National Forest.
At age 16 Waldo began his studies at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH. He later attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and studied in Mexico City.
Waldo liked to say that he lived his life “in reverse.” After years working and traveling abroad, he met his Andalucian wife Conchita in Mallorca, Spain, and married at the age of 48. They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on October 12th. Together they raised their four children in Santa Barbara where he served as a member of the Board of Friends of the UCSB Library and volunteered for 22 years at A. Child’s Estate Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. He also volunteered annually with the Special Olympics.
Waldo passed away one day after his 98th birthday on September 6th, 2007 in Seattle, Washington, after receiving the Anointment for the Sick twice. He was preceded in death by his sister Christella and his brother Everett. He is beloved and survived by his wife Conchita, children Christella Campbell of Santa Barbara, CA, Kevin Ruess of McLean, VA, Michèle Ruess of Seattle, WA, and Brian Ruess of Portland, OR; their spouses, David Campbell, Maria Ruess, Mark Travers, and Natasha Ruess; and eight grandchildren, Hilary, Violet, Iris, and Davis Campbell, Paul and Ana Ruess, and Adam and Tatiana Ruess.
“‘I cannot keep your waves,’ says the bank to the river. ‘Let me keep your footprints in my heart.'”