Jessica Helfand | Tributes

Remembering Ruth Sackner

Ruth Sackner, in an undated photo

Some years ago, I wrangled an invitation to the Miami home of Ruth and Marvin Sackner—collectors of what might be the most spectacular typography collection in the United States, perhaps the world—where, with my children in tow, we ooh'd and aah'd at the range of an archive so magnificent it spilled out into the hallways of their apartment building. There were Tom Phillips prints, Piet Zwart pamphlets, even typographic sculpture in what was meant to be the large fish pond in the living room. (Yes, in the living room: this was Miami, after all, where such things are more common than you'd think. To the Sackners, though, it was prime real estate for another typographic specimen, just another wonder to behold.)

But by far the best part of this impromptu visit was meeting Ruth, whose warmth enveloped you from the moment you entered her home, and who endeared herself to me even more when she offered to show me her closet. Her closet, I asked?

"Yes!" came the reply. "To see my typographic clothing!"

Letterforms on scarves, language on fabric, big swirls of typographic ornament, calligraphic gestures large and small—Ruth didn't just show them to me, she modeled them for me. I loved every bit of it, and her, and swooned with delight.

Since that visit, I have shared this story with anyone who would listen, and share it again today on the sad occasion of Ruth's death, at seventy-nine, a few days ago. Those who knew her take solace from the fact that she died in her sleep—a graceful exit for a woman who personified grace and kindness and complete lack of pretension—but it is, nevertheless, a great loss for us all. She will be greatly missed.

Posted in: Obituaries

Comments [2]

Ruth and Marvin created an important and valuable collection of concrete poetry, typewriter art and letter works. It is so sad that on the eve of the publication of their book on typewriter art that Ruth should pass so unexpectedly. She was a lovely, loving and generous woman and will be missed and missed.
Steven Heller

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Taposy Rabeya

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