ALBANY -- Former Albany Mayor Ruth Ganong has died. She was 91.
Ganong served two four-year terms on the City Council from 1980 to 1988. She served two terms as mayor during that time. She also served on the Albany Unified School District board and on the AC Transit board.
"I guess I didn't really realize how important she was growing up because she always made time for us," said granddaughter Stephanie Sala, who owns Five Little Monkeys toy store on Solano Avenue. Sala grew up next door to her grandmother.
"She really balanced her dedication to public service with her dedication to her family. I remember being at her house and it being time for her to read her package for the City Council meeting and it being time for me to go home."
Sala said she once gave her grandmother one of the Rosie the Riveter action figures they were selling at Five Little Monkeys because Ganong would always say, "We can do it!"
"I really wanted a pingpong table and she said, 'Let's build a pingpong table,' " Sala said. "We made a hutch for a rabbit. Lots of dollhouses."
Sala added, "I always felt like I had a special relationship with her. It wasn't until she passed away and all the family was gathered that I realized she had a special relationship with all of us."
Ruth Margaret Jackson was born Jan. 9, 1924, in Winnetka, Illinois, where she graduated from New Trier High School. She then attended Smith College in Massachusetts, where she became the first female to graduate from the Boston Architectural College.
However, it was not an easy journey for Ganong, who was diagnosed with polio as a child and told she would never walk without braces. She not only learned to walk, she would wear high heels all the time, according to Sala.
"People would come to me and say, 'What's with Grandma Barbie?' " Sala said. "They were referring to her high heels. She was always wearing high heels. Part of it was fashion, but part of it was that she had polio as a child.
"She figured out if she had high heels she could run, she could Jazzercise, she could ride a bicycle."
In 1948 she married William Francis Ganong. The couple raised four children, moving to Albany in 1955.
Ruth Ganong became interested in local politics because of the increasing landfill being put in San Francisco Bay at that time. She helped start the Albany Bay Committee, which worked with Save the Bay to try to stop the landfill.
She was elected to the AUSD school board in 1972 and served two four-year terms. She then ran for City Council. After serving two terms there, she ran for the AC Transit board and served, yes, two terms there. She was president of the AUSD board for two years and of the AC Transit board for one year.
Ganong also served on the board of the Albany YMCA and countless community boards.
In 2003 she teamed with Mayor Jewel Okawachi, Lt. Bill Palmini of the Albany Police Department and Joan Larson to relaunch the Albany Historical Society,
In 2006, the Albany Chamber of Commerce named Ganong its Citizen of the Year.
"She certainly loved the community and the community loved her too," Sala said.
William Ganong, who was a professor at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, died in 2008. Ruth Ganong is survived by her four children, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Albany Education Foundation, 1320 Solano Ave., Suite 203, Albany, CA 94706 or the Albany YMCA, 921 Kains Ave., Albany, CA 94706.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on April 3 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 1325 Portland Ave. in Albany.