Constance “Connie” Ruby Garrett died September 29, 2020 of pancreatic cancer at her home in Potomac, MD. Her beauty, wit, intellect, and vivacity are unforgettable to those who knew her. She was a rare gem. 

Connie was born January 4, 1931 to Ida Dunes and Morris Ruby in Mahanoy City, PA, her father having emigrated from Russia in 1906. 

She attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, graduating with a degree in Education in 1954. While in a work-study program, she had various jobs in New York: at radio station WOR; at the Travelers Aid Society where she greeted displaced persons at the city docks; and in classrooms at the Downtown Community School in lower Manhattan.

Upon college graduation, she taught elementary school in Massapequa, NY until her marriage to Charles W. Garrett in 1955. In the early years of her marriage Connie gave birth to four daughters while making many geographic moves that included Oak Ridge, TN, Yellow Springs, OH and Ann Arbor, MI. She ultimately settled in Bethesda, MD in 1963. In 2007 she moved a few miles away to Potomac, MD, where she lived actively and enjoyed the immense cultural benefits of the Washington, DC area through her later years. 

Connie divorced in the early ‘70s and returned to school at the University of Maryland, obtaining a Master’s degree in Special Education. While in school as a single parent struggling to make ends meet, she worked as a substitute teacher and then as a full-time teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools until retiring in 1991. She then embarked on a variety of jobs that appealed to her interests, including working at the Herb Cottage Gift Shop at the Washington National Cathedral.

She was active in Montgomery County’s group of parents with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, providing support and advocating for equal educational opportunities. She was also a member of the League of Women Voters, the Orton Society, and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

Connie always had creative instincts and enjoyed gardening, knitting, sewing and crafts—most recently taking art classes and painting pastel landscapes. She also loved to dance. It was a point of pride that as a college student she won a dance competition in NYC doing the Charleston. 

Her love of the arts and music led her to support independent artists, often going to art openings and exhibits. It also drew her to the Kennedy Center for operas, concerts, and ballets. She held season tickets to Arena Stage for 35 years and rarely missed a performance. While visiting Laura in France in 1989, the highlight was not Paris, but Monet’s home in Giverny.  

Connie was a self-described consumer of all things informative. She was naturally curious and always asked questions, a trait she passed on to her children. A day was wasted if she hadn’t learned something new. She was happiest surrounded by her countless treasures: her artwork, “boundless” books, crafts and magazines.

Connie was a natural extrovert with a winning smile and warmth who cultivated friends easily. She kept up many caring friendships over decades, some even dating back to her high school years.

She leaves behind her sister Helen Siswein, four daughters: Barbara, Linda and Laura Garrett, Leila Garrett-Stevens, and grandchildren: Mallory, Tristan, William, and Owen.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial gifts be sent to Compassion & Choices

Due to Covid-19, there will be no in-person services. 
Posted by Flora Wolf on November 3, 2020
Fondly remembering Connie:

Beautiful, intellectually curious, dedicated to education for herself, her family and the children she taught, serious patron of the arts, - - and in her later life, an accomplished creator of art. Foremost achievement: Four talented and beautiful daughters to keep her memory alive.

Sincere condolences to all her loved ones.        Flora
Posted by Helen Siswein on October 24, 2020
To my sister:
Sisters are an unique phenomenon
They are connected by some invisible thread
Very subtle and sometimes obscured
Only to be revealed when it is late; very late
We were lucky to have each other almost ninety years
But not long enough.
When the chord is severed the pain is unbearable; too little time to be together
The loss of a sister is a hurt that never goes away...
Love always,
Your sister
Posted by Debbie Lassiter on October 17, 2020
I only met Connie once. A woman in her late 80’s... uberring to Laura’s house for Friendsgiving. I was struck by her willingness to embrace change (all this new technology), navigate her limitations (inability to drive) and live her life. Like her watercolors, her conversations were interesting and myriad. Truly inspirational! 
Posted by Leila Garrett-Stevens on October 15, 2020
This was a note from mom's friend, Ruth Bartfeld, that Ruth asked me to share.

Dear Laura: Please give my condolences to your family. I have many happy memories of shared experiences with Connie . She was always interested in EVERYTHING and it was fun to do things together. She will be missed by many.

My best regards to you and your family,

Ruth Bartfeld

Posted by Barbara Ratner on October 13, 2020
Thank you Garrett daughters for the lovely tribute to your Mother.

Connie and I were friends for the past 15 years. We had a monthly dinner with Iris, Gloria, Connie and me. We also attended the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Va, for many years. After we lost Iris and Gloria, Connie and I had lunch the first Tuesday of each month. We had lunch and did errands or appointments. We also did much talking! So I know you much better than you know me.

Connie and I were good friends and I miss her already!
Posted by Laura Rosen on October 13, 2020
Connie was an important role model to all of us girls growing up in the Westmont Court neighborhood as a single working Mom ahead of her time. Her daughters amazed me with their resilience and independence that Connie inspired. I have so many memories of my hours spent in the vibrant Garrett household, learning from the reams of art books and magazines, and going on funky shopping expeditions or relaxing at the pool, which never seemed to happen in my family. I did not realize what a great artist Connie had become! Her beautiful pictures and our fond memories will live on.
Posted by Anne Wa on October 12, 2020
I had met Constance only once and shortly before I visited her for a week-end in Bethesda, spending 3 months on the East Coast.
And it was amazing how quickly we get along. I felt at home at once. She was so nice, full of energy, interested in everything.
Being cousins (though distant cousins) and also of course being a friend of Laura since her stay in Paris might have helped, but still …
I remember Constance exactly as she is on the picture on top of this page, so pleasant and smiling.
Love to all the family, including those I’ve never seen but would love to meet. Come to Paris !
Posted by Joanna Edwards on October 10, 2020
Dear Connie,

It’s been a long and rich friendship—47 years by my count, more than half of both our lives. During the past several days since you told me about your illness, I’ve been reflecting on the many occasions we shared, events we attended, and life experiences over which we connected. We met in Frank’s class at the University of Maryland in 1973. The girls were young then. Barbara had just returned from Cornell University and started attending the University of Maryland. Leila, the age of my son, was involved in diving and he in swimming. So there were our studies and our children.

Then there was our gallivanting. You introduced me to the world of concert music. Among the first of those performances was Jean-Pierre Rampal years ago at The Johns Hopkins. Why that sticks in my mind is hard to know. There were the many string quartet concerts that I loved and the Kennedy Center choral performances we attended. More recently there was our surprise encounter at one of the Smithsonian opera series lectures held in the Women’s Democratic Club.

In the earlier years, there were the gatherings at my apartment in Columbia. You are one of the few friends who met my father or attend a party at my brother Gil’s house in Annapolis on Swan Point. Even then we left his party early as we had tickets to see a Tennessee Williams play at Olney Theater that evening. I shall always remember the cheese fondue supper you prepared on one of my birthdays, served at your home with the girls attending. Then there were our many walks on the Canal path to Wide Water and Angler’s Inn.

I remember the night you called worried about Barbara’s accident on the Beltway one Thanksgiving Eve. You asked me to call Gil. He met Barbara at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit. It was a snowy night and an early morning surgery. He drove from Annapolis in his jeep, picked up his surgical nurse, made his way to the operating room where with a skeleton staff performed reconstruction surgery of Barbara’s cheek, etc. The snowstorm continued through the day. Later on I know they had a few dates on his sailboat and maybe a few other trysts.

You came to my aid when my husband Richard died. You were an immense help during that difficult time especially the day of Richard’s memorial service. Again, you were the first to call me after seeing the Post’s death notice of Richard’s good friend, John Wiebensen, years later. John was Richard’s long-time friend, both architects, and both died unexpectedly years apart. I spent an afternoon this past Sunday, October 4 with Abigail, John’s widow. We often meet on October 4 to remember Richard and John as they both died on October 4, yet years apart.

Our interest spread into the world of museums and gardens. There was our Georgetown Garden Tour one year when Barbara joined us. More recently we explored Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens with another friend of yours. We retreated to garden walks together when mobility became an issue and the Canal treks became a thing of the past.

In more recent years we had all those Saturday lunches at Hunter’s Inn at Potomac Village—half price hamburgers and Bloody Mary’s. At first we met to celebrate our January birthdays, then we just met to meet up. Our conversations needed no introductions or recounting, we were in touch with each other’s lives throughout the years we shared. 

Connie, I am missing you and shall always miss you. We had a long and rich friendship.

Joanna Edwards October 10, 2020
Posted by Pat Stocker on October 9, 2020
My friendship with Connie was through the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Branch of AAUW (the American Association of University Women). I loved Connie! She had a wry sense of humor - a dose of realism along with a dose of humor. She was passionate about things that mattered to her, and she would often call me to suggest a television show or newspaper article which I might enjoy. I recall her friendship with the late Sally Dobson, who lived at the same senior center - and the fun they had together sharing stories and memories. Connie's role in our AAUW branch for many years was "time to care" - and she sent cards to our members who were ill or dealing with a loss. She cared for others, and we cared for her. We will miss Connie!
Posted by Victoria Vogel on October 7, 2020
Dear Connie,
You were always a bright star in my mother's "single ladies group" which included glasses of wine in our home, and your endless outings to theatre, ballet and concerts. Not to mention the summers at Rehobeth or Bethany beach.
Of course, this beautiful and long friendship began when you, my mother and father met at Antioch college in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
I was so fortunate to meet Laura when she was working/cooking/writing in Paris and that was another adventure. You were so fortunate to have wonderful grandchildren, and ironically Laura and I both have sons named Tristan.
Your whit, interest in the arts and humor will always remain with us.
Love, Victoria
Posted by Margaret Vogel on October 7, 2020
Connie, what can I say? We were friends for 71 years and first met as freshmen at Antioch College in 1949. We enjoyed each other's company trough life's stages over the years from the early days at Antioch, where she quickly a well known name on campus to meeting several years later in Bethesda as divorced mothers with children, to several years in the singles scene (she was a marvelous dancer and absolutely beautiful) to rendezvous in Paris, trips to the beach, art galleries and theatre. As we aged, Connie downsized and became my neighbor in Potomac, sharing ballet at the Kennedy Center, and lunches out. After her mobility became limited she was still always ready to go , interested in everything and knowledgeable over a wide range of subjects. She was a very intelligent, talented ,strong personality and I always valued her friendship.  I will miss her.
Posted by Nancy Heffron on October 7, 2020
Connie was indeed a “rare gem.” I first met her at the age of five and will never forget her. Smart, outspoken, creative, caring, and lover of classical music are what I will remember most, along with occasional pronouncements like “I believe in mothering, not smothering.” I’m sending my love to the family and am so sorry for your loss.
Posted by Ilse Tebbetts on October 7, 2020
Connie and I first met as first-year students at Antioch in 1949 though we moved in different social circles. Our close friendship developed some years after we graduated and both moved back to Yellow Springs. Each with young children of the same ages we spent untold hours at each other’s homes, chatting over coffee, herding children around, and sharing holiday meals. Barbara and Linda may remember those days; Laura and Leila would be too young. Connie had many talents but among the most outstanding was her talent for friendship. She gladly leaped into the breach when my third daughter arrived a bit early. With my husband 60 miles away, she scooped up both my older girls and kept them while a neighbor drove me to the hospital. Some years later, after she and Chuck had moved to Virginia, I needed surgery in Washington DC and they kindly took me in and cared for me after the surgery. And will I ever forget that Christmas when the Garretts came back to Yellow Springs to spend the Christmas holidays with us, and our plumbing backed up into our several bathrooms on Christmas Eve? I think, between us, we had six little girls under eight years old at the time. I can still see us in my mind’s eye trekking across the snowy street to a neighbor’s bathroom with a trail of children straggling along behind while the plumber worked up on our roof. I cooked Christmas dinner that year while Connie scrubbed bathrooms within an inch of their lives. We saw each other only a few times in the intervening years but kept in close touch via mail . . . and then email. Connie wrote long, informative letters, full of news about her life and the lives of her girls. And full of her thoughts and feelings as well. She never seemed far away. So, goodbye dear friend. I’ll miss you.
Love, Ilse
Posted by Jean Hirons on October 6, 2020
I was Connie's pastel instructor for the past 8 years and she was such a delight! She first came to me at the Yellow Barn after discovering my paintings and buying one at the Waverly Street Gallery. It was obvious how important art and painting was to her. Over the years she made it clear that high chroma colors were her thing and her daughters provided her with lovely sunsets for her to paint. She also attended the piano concerts that I held for my pastel students and I'm so honored to know that she watched some of my piano videos during her last hours. She was highly regarded and loved by me and her fellow students. Connie was an exceptional person who we will all miss greatly. I'm particularly thankful to Helen Wood who for many years drove Connie to her classes and was such a good friend to her. 
Posted by Linda Slan on October 6, 2020
We were sorry to read of your Mother's passing, and we hope you have lots and lots of warm memories to comfort you. In recent years we sometimes ran into her at the Kennedy Center or a shopping center. We were always delighted to reconnect each time. We enjoyed remembering the time Linda stayed at our house while your mother was in Michigan for Laura's heart surgery. We became friends originally because Linda was a teacher of the deaf, and I was a dentist for your family. Your Mother was so friendly and capable. During her lifetime she raised 4 daughters and still was able to become a special education teacher. It always seemed that she lived life to the fullest. She certainly will be missed by her family and her many, many friends.............Linda & Mel Slan
Posted by Michael Panken on October 5, 2020
Laura, over the years I only spent time with Connie briefly, but I remember her energy, passion for life, and generosity to me and my family. Your tribute is beautiful and the summary of your mom’s life clearly demonstrated a rich and active life. Would all our lives be so well remembered. - it seems fitting she passed around the the time of Sukkot- a time to remember the abundance of both the recent year, and all those years that have passed before- May the lord bring you peace and comfort- with love MDP
Posted by Nancy Scott on October 5, 2020
Our friend Connie had full life. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious, and I was so inspired by her. We were Arena Stage buds, enjoying many plays together. While she had seen most of the plays multiple times over the years, she nevertheless was excited to see them again. Her knowledge of the arts was impressive. I am blessed to have known Connie. She will always be in my heart.
Posted by Frank Ghadry on October 4, 2020
I accompanied Connie to the Kennedy Center to see Don Giovanni towards the end of March of this year. It was truly a pleasure to be with her and around her. Not only her exuberance for music, and especially the Opera, rubbed on you, but you felt you were in the presence of true royalty when it came to appreciating the beautiful classical music she loved.

Connie loved Verdi and especially La Traviata and since I am a novice, she was ever so generous with her knowledge and I will always be profoundly grateful for her friendship.

Many, as I do, will miss her dearly. I feel so lucky to have met her even though it was for a brief 18 months. In my mind, Don Giovanni's notes will eternally be etched with her memory.

RIP Connie.
Posted by Gordon Bernhardt on October 4, 2020
What can one say about Connie? I loved her laugh; it was contagious and always brought a smile to my face. Her smile and energy would brighten any room. And I loved seeing her passions and interests. It meant so much to me when she showed me one of her paintings that was inspired by one of my photos from my 35-day, 618-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. I was hoping I would get to see her and talk to her after my book on my Camino experiences was published. RIP, Connie! You will be missed!
Posted by Laura Garrett on October 3, 2020
Seven Autumns After

Mine is the forgotten birthday.
All the others were born in May. Grandma,
toward the end you couldn’t recall which child
arrived in Autumn, so you sent all the cards in May.

October. The season for pears is almost over.
I reach to touch, to feel the warmth
So round and ripe.
Lifting one up from damp, brown leaves
I remember my mother in a similar month
when she curved her arms around me
to tell me you were dead.

I held my head against her breast and squeezed shut my eyes
to her hushed voice fearing what she would say.
You, on whose lap I had sat for endless games of patty-cake
who bought me halvah, a treat we never had at home
who bought me trinkets in sunny Miami
who bought me birthday cards in May. 
You would not be anymore.

I listened to her heartbeat--that rhythm I knew from the womb--
and burrowed in deeper.
I was twelve, my hips still lean and hard. I needed
to breathe in her mother-smell until I was dizzy,
until I felt sure.

In an orchard today I turn twenty
The sky is pale over trees in a bony embrace.
The pear is warm in my hand.
I hold it up to my face.

                                           --Laura Garrett

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Flora Wolf on November 3, 2020
Fondly remembering Connie:

Beautiful, intellectually curious, dedicated to education for herself, her family and the children she taught, serious patron of the arts, - - and in her later life, an accomplished creator of art. Foremost achievement: Four talented and beautiful daughters to keep her memory alive.

Sincere condolences to all her loved ones.        Flora
Posted by Helen Siswein on October 24, 2020
To my sister:
Sisters are an unique phenomenon
They are connected by some invisible thread
Very subtle and sometimes obscured
Only to be revealed when it is late; very late
We were lucky to have each other almost ninety years
But not long enough.
When the chord is severed the pain is unbearable; too little time to be together
The loss of a sister is a hurt that never goes away...
Love always,
Your sister
Posted by Debbie Lassiter on October 17, 2020
I only met Connie once. A woman in her late 80’s... uberring to Laura’s house for Friendsgiving. I was struck by her willingness to embrace change (all this new technology), navigate her limitations (inability to drive) and live her life. Like her watercolors, her conversations were interesting and myriad. Truly inspirational! 
her Life


Connie was also an accomplished knitter and made many sweaters and throw blankets ("afghans") for family and friends. She carried her knitting along wherever she thought her hands might have a few minutes unoccupied and made great progress when our family traveled, which was only and ever by car: Dad behind the wheel and she next to him with her project in her lap. Always aiming for efficiency, she used circular needles and mastered a technique of wrapping the yarn around her finger so she never had to stop between stitches. If she discovered a mistake she couldn't fix, she would rip out the whole thing and start over. She was a perfectionist and her knitting always looked like it was done by a pro. 

Landscape artist

Connie started painting and taking art classes in her '70s. She studied oil painting under Doris Haskell but soon moved to oil pastel and, despite her increasing arthritis, pursued her passion for landscapes under the tutelage of Jean Hirons for whom she had great respect. All the paintings shown in the gallery are from 2007-2019.  She never titled any of her work and rarely had anything framed. Most of the art on her walls was by other artists; she left her own sitting propped against the closest vertical surface like a stack of books waiting to be shelved.

High School Extracurriculars

Connie was a joiner. In addition to her report cards, we found lists she wrote on an old notepad:
Freshman Year: President of Class, Captain of Basketball Team, Orchestra, Freshman Math Club, Forensics League, Freshman Chorus. Participated in: Gym Exhibition, Forensics Competitions, Christmas and Easter Assembly Programs.
Sophomore Year: Student Congress, Sophomore Chorus, Orchestra, Forensics League and again participated in the Assembly Programs. Won: Essay Contest (Easter Seals), Forensics League (Shakespeare).

She was a meticulous and talented seamstress. On more than one occasion she sewed matching dresses for all five "Garrett Girls" (two from the late 1950s are pictured above).  Here is a list she wrote of her sewing class output:

1 dress (clover)
1 blouse (ruffles)
2 blouses (gathered)
1 playsuit (shorts and top)
1 shirt & peplum
1 aqua suit
1 navy blue pleated skirt
1 jerkin
Recent stories

My Theater Buddy for almost 40 years

Shared by Kathleen Horwitz on October 4, 2020
Connie was part of so many special events of my life. We had so much in common that we became great friends attending lectures, theater events, and taking trips.  She was present when my husband proposed, at our wedding and we watched our families grow together. This special friend, took my family (including a dog) into her home for 5 months while our home was renovated!

Her enthusiasm for life and learning was a wonder to behold, but I most enjoyed her company on our multi-decade theater trips to Arena Stage. I miss her and will always treasure the place she holds in my heart and life.  My husband says the same.  She lived well and died well.  What more could sum up a good life?

If only she could stretch them!

Shared by Laura Garrett on October 17, 2020
When she was first pregnant, Mom knit a couple of beautiful infant sweaters in anticipation of her newborn.The patterns required very thin needles and painstakingly little stiches-- truly a challenge, but they turned out dainty and adorable.Baby Barbara arrived, full-term, healthy and way too big to fit into the sweaters.So Mom kept them for the next child. Unfortunately for the sweaters, they never dressed a newborn because we were all born too big to wear those precious little things!