Ruth Neal Tunstall-Grant
  • 72 years old
  • Date of birth: Jan 23, 1945
  • Date of passing: Jun 5, 2017
  • Place of passing:
    San Jose, California, United States
There are no wasted moments. All moments are magical, gifts. -- Ruth

This memorial website was created in memory of Ruth Tunstall-Grant.  Please share your stories, memories, pictures of her or her artwork.  Let's cherish the times we had with her and know she will live on through her art.

A celebration of life, or "my party" as Ruth liked to call it, will be held on Sunday, September 3, 2017 at MACLA ( in San Jose from 4 pm to 7 pm.

In lieu of flowers, kindly consider donating to the Ruth Tunstall Grant Archive to help preserve her legacy as an artist.  

With love and sadness,

Sheehan, Indira and Luxmi

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Dana Powell Russell on 23rd January 2018

"Ruthie, I know your spirit is partying and boogieing down and laughing up a storm. Happy birthday, love, we miss you!"

This tribute was added by Patty McDonaldpbmcd@yahoo. on 23rd January 2018

"We were together on your Birthday last year.  We are together today also!!  You will always be with me, Ruthie!!  I love you.
I strongly feel your art should be in the next Bienalle in Venice next year.You represent us and the USA!!!!  I will always love you. Thank you for being in my life!"

This tribute was added by Patty McDonaldpbmcd@yahoo. on 2nd September 2017

"My dearest Ruth,
I will never forget the deepest joy you brought into my life .  Our usual get togethers with dinner & lasting a good 5+ hours, was always so much fun. Having you as such a close friend made my life so rich. Sharing our stories of celebration & trauma made us so close & understanding of each other & others. You claimed  I was the Phoenix of your life & you gave me your Phoenix painting, which I will always cherish. You were the Shaman in the lives if Mike & I, and we purchased your painting of that for our 25th wedding anniversary, & will always find it inspiring. I will love you forever & you will always be in my heart."

This tribute was added by G Snaps on 1st September 2017

"I love you and miss you my sister,goddess, and mentor!!!"

This tribute was added by Pamela Eisenbarth on 21st August 2017

"When I first started working for her, I took her to pick up a prescription.  We were in the waiting room and there was a crazy looking white guy, bald!!, with tacks all over him, looking like he was mad at the world.  We picked up the prescription and were walking out the door when I looked back and she had gone over and was talking to him!!  I thought to myself, "Oh no, here we go!"
  Naturally, I went over to see what was up and she was complimenting him on the tattoos on his bald head!!!  He was smiling this beautiful smile by then that just changed his whole aura!!
  She really had a intuitive nature, she knew just the thing to do at any given time."

This tribute was added by Gail Jessen on 16th August 2017

"I met Ruth 40 years ago when she was teaching at at the museum. We enrolled our daughter Jeanine in on of Ruth's art classes. Jeanine was only 5. She turned out to be a wonderful artist, all because of Ruth's early influence. Ruth was so loving and talented and fun, and it sounds as if she never changed...."

This tribute was added by Terry-Semi-Retired Christensen on 9th August 2017

"This tribute is by Mona Palmer Onstead:  
I met Ruthie through her art at Terry's many years ago, and bonded immediately. Years later she appeared on my doorstep with a large painting she wanted me to have. It is over my mantle to this day.
I miss our warm and companionable tea parties after she became housebound....her unfailing humor and interest in others, and all the good times when she was healthy. Life was better for me when you were here.  Mona"

This tribute was added by Patanisha Williams on 9th August 2017

"I was in her physical presence just ONCE and she made that much of an impact in my life. An Artist, A Rebel and WOMAN, She kept in touch via Facebook, encouraged ALL artistic endeavors and had a humor for my "weirdness". She is on a THRONE for real, next to Maya Angelou and Betty Carter... those Queens who believed in Art, Culture and Legacy. My heart is broken just hearing the news but I know you are smiling at me and wantin me to Create and Party in your Honor. #celebratelife #passingthebaton"

This tribute was added by Dianne McKenna on 14th July 2017

"I first met Ruth when she ran the art education program at the Children's Shelter. However, she provided so much more than an art program.  Ruth gave the kids a way to express themselves, a way to heal, a way to be creative, and a way to grow.  She also influenced all the adults who work with her.  All who entered Ruth's world were welcomed and accepted without question.  She was a truly an authentic person who made the world a better place.  She holds a special place in my heart for the wonderful person she was.
I send my thoughts and prayers to Ruth's family who I know will miss her dearly,  Dianne McKenna"

This tribute was added by James Reber on 28th June 2017

"I am saddened to learn of Ruth's passing. To me, it goes like this: the sun comes up each day, the darkness sets at night, there is air and Ruth is creating art or teaching young artists or organizing something wonderful here in San Jose. Years go by, but Ruth is a constant force for good and for creativity. Thank you, Ruth, for all your have done and all that you have set in motion for our future. Thank you for that wonderful smile. Rest in peace."

This tribute was added by Josh Birenbaum on 22nd June 2017

"While I know that none of us live forever, it really feels like there should have been an exception granted for your Mom.  Growing up, she was the perfect representation for me of warmth and love (sorry, Mom) and I can still feel the happiness I experienced hanging out with her as I hung out with you.  Damn, this really sucks and I'm sorry.  She was really GOOD, and the world is worse off for her quitting it.  She got out at the right time, I suppose, but it just shows how there should be a lot more people like Ruth out there.  (I love the 60s Ruth pics, by the way!  I wish I had known her then.)  Sending you much love."

This tribute was added by Dana Powell Russell on 21st June 2017

"Ruthie. You mean so much to each of us, and to all of us at once. Your perception was uncanny—you saw things in others that they didn’t yet see in themselves. You were a world class storyteller, and an equally gifted listener, taking it all in, the spoken and the unspoken, with what felt like every cell of your body. You were the world’s greatest cheerleader, finding full and equal joy in the joy of others, and helping us straighten our crowns when we stumbled. To me, you will always be the reigning queen of the Shakespearean aside, hilariously getting me (and many others) through countless meetings and encounters.

We became fast friends. When we lived a few blocks from each other, we’d curl up on your couch watching The West Wing every week, wishing Jed Bartlett was really our President, and then rejoicing together when our prayers were answered, only better! For all the time we spent together teaching, working, scheming, I cherish most the time shared just the two of us—telling stories back and forth, unpacking the day, or saying nothing at all. I’m certain we all do.

You taught me not to fill my workday with meetings, to create breathing room, so that I would have time to reflect and process. You taught me the quiet subversion of finding a way to do what you know is right, because the naysayers will eventually come around. You taught me patience with people who make assumptions based on whatever prejudices life slipped into their lenses. You taught me how to navigate bureaucratic nonsense with equal parts compassion and zero tolerance. You taught me how to listen harder in the empty spaces, because therein lies the secret.

You had the clairvoyance, wisdom, and wit of someone who had seen it all and then some. You embraced us all with one hand for support, the other pointing to the stars. You were both incredibly human and superhuman. Your lessons live in my heart, my outlook, and my actions forever. How lucky we all are to have known you, and how deeply you are loved and missed.

Rest in peace, my colleague, my mentor, my friend. ❤️"

This tribute was added by Eve Mathias on 21st June 2017

"Ruthie, you are still in my heart - forever -  sweetness.
You are my longest lasting friend here in San Jose, since 1978.
I will never forget your laugh: Luxurious, from the heart, the throat, and the belly. Laugh on, my darlin'. Love, and peace to your beautiful soul. Kisses, Evie"

This tribute was added by Nancy Wiener on 19th June 2017

"Ruth-- a dear cherished friend, the embodiment of all things artistic beautiful, strong and loving. We knew each other from the City arts and in the late1980's, on a panel together at Children's Discovery Museum, we got  the idea to have her run an Art Education program for the County's abused and neglected children at the old Children's Shelter. Her work with kids was amazing at all levels, and her model led to huge  leadership support for including a large art studio, office and exhibition space in the new facility, and, a permanent County Art Director level position created for her. Thanks to her genius, sensitivity and knowledge thousands of children learned art, multicultural and personal skills, and healing from her and from the staff of artists who were trained and led by her. It was quite something to see. Ruth taught us all so much about strength, perseverance, creativity and the role art can play in all our lives. I warmly remember the exhibits, assemblies and strategy sessions, often including Marianne Pritchett. She will live in my heart for the rest of my days and will be forever remembered by the kids, artists, friends and our community. She was one very very special woman/artist.

All my love and warm thoughts to her dear family, Sheehan and Indira and adored grand daughter, Luxmi.
Nancy Wiener"

This tribute was added by Shinobu Ichino on 18th June 2017

"Ruth always welcomed us with open arms whenever we had a chance to see her at one of Sheehan and Indira's get togethers.  Sheehan, it was so evident that she meant the world to you and vice a versa.  She was special to everyone and I'm sure she will always be with you in your heart and spirit.  Our condolences.

From Dan and Shinobu"

This tribute was added by inhui lee on 17th June 2017

"How many mother-in-laws become friends with her daughter-in-laws' friends?

I am Ruth's daughter-in-law,  Indira's friend who have become friends with Ruth.

I pray for Ruth's crossing over in peace and in light.

A poem for Ruth while she is crossing over.


Born black woman in the U.S. of W.  
darker among your siblings
You are one of those black women “holding a broom against tsunami” of hardship, and still rises up
To dream. . .
Blue Boat
Blue Sky’
Blue Walls
Blue Space  with occasional fire

You knew who you were and where from and to where you goin’
in your painting of China Impression
You are crossing over in your Blue Boat to the other side of our imagination."

This tribute was added by Lois Phillips on 17th June 2017

"Ruthie was such a dear friend.  We go way back, to 1967 in fact.  Before Sheehan was born, Ruthie taught an art class at the Davis Art Center and that was the first art class I ever took. I'll never forget her. She was a wonderfully inspiring teacher and a very creative artist.  Her optimistic, warm spirit came through in her art and her everyday life.  She did a great job of raising Sheehan.  She was so happy when Sheehan married Indira and then later when her granddaughter, Luxmi, came along.  Ruthie  loved being a grandmother so much. She lived a full life rich in art and the love of family and friends.  Can't ask for more than that. I will miss her."

This tribute was added by Tessa Cafiero on 16th June 2017

"I only met Ruth a few times, but I vividly remember her smile and infectious spirit- one of those people others are drawn to. She hosted a birthday celebration for Luxmi that Ashoke and I attended at her home and she had so many friends that confirmed this to me. It was also so clear how much she adored Luxmi. She brought out that happiness in Ruth in the way only a grandchild can.

As an unartistic person I was especially impressed by her artwork which I first came to know through Sheehan and Indira's home. I always thought it was so cool she painted one of those San Francisco hearts :). I remember an art show she hosted in Oakland a few years back where I was able to see some of her larger works first hand. I'll always be a fan."

This tribute was added by Cobán Lopez on 16th June 2017

"Ms. Ruth... I'm just writing to tell you that I miss you every day… I drove past 2nd street yesterday and cried at the thought that I couldn’t make my usual unannounced stop to say hello. Thank you for allowing me that privilege because I sure know how you disliked unannounced visits.

I hang on tight to the memories of every opportunity I had to sit with you… every chance to learn more about you… every kick in the butt to learn more about myself…  I will especially treasure my memory of the last time we sat together to watch a G.S. Warriors game on June 4th.   You were so happy that our Warriors beat Lebron and it meant more than ever to be in your company that evening.... I will forever be grateful to Sheehan for making that possible.  When I told you "I love you" and “Goodnight" that day… I wasn’t ready to say it forever... I really miss you, Ms. Ruth.

I miss your company, your guidance, your conversations, your tough love, and most of all -  your amazing spirit.  I count my blessings and fortune that you allowed Viry and me into your world at a time when we were just beginning our lives together. There is no way I can put into words the immense impact you've had on our journey from the moment you gave the ‘OK’ for us to become a part of the history of 755… Instantly we had a buddy, confidant, life-coach, grandma-figure, and everything else in between.  

I’ll keep missing you and I’ll keep sharing with you… The cliché says that ‘you are in a better place’.... truth be told... YOU LEFT US IN A BETTER PLACE!  I love you… miss you.."

This tribute was added by Daniel Horne on 15th June 2017

"Ruth always had a kind word to say and a positive attitude, which are rare and precious qualities in people. I feel lucky to have known such a gracious individual."

This tribute was added by Baba Chakrabarti on 15th June 2017

"We knew that RUTH is Sheehan's ( our son in law ) mother. We came to know her when she first came to our home with Sheehan. She came outside in our garden, looked at the surrounding and starred to praise it. We knew that she was an artist. I immediately realized that she really was an artist. Very few people who came to our home appreciated the natural surrounding so eloquently. It was a genuine compliment. I like art and artists. Right then I started liking her. She has many other qualities but her artistic nature was most appealing to me. She was a good mother and mother-in-law and a very good grand mother all along. We were planning to go to SanJose in 4th of July. Now we cancelled that. God will bless her. Pinaki and Manju Chakrabarti. June15 2017."

This tribute was added by Rochelle Robinson on 15th June 2017

"Ruth's passing broke my heart because I had hopes that she would be around to celebrate another birthday with Luxmi,  enjoy a tea party with her closest women friends, and that I would have another chance to see her as Indira and I had planned...  I had known her through Sheehan and Indira, and enjoyed the many celebrations hosted by Ruth in her lovely home where so many other long-time friends, friends of friends and family gathered.  It was always Sunny in San Jose (probably much more than Philly), and I'd like to remember Ruth in that way, her sunny spirit that you could feel because she loved being surrounded by her folks.  Now that she's gone, I feel certain that she is free and happy, unencumbered by tubes and tanks that had her tethered to a body that had grown weary of the weight of it all. She's now teaching art classes in a paradise that we've only imagined, where all souls are equal, where gender is not a consequence or a curse or a concern, where there is so much love and light for an eternity.  How happy she must be!  She can stay up all night and day and still not get weary :)  Paradise.  Be forever in paradise dear Ruth.  We will soon gather in your honor and celebrate your life and the gifts you brought to it. Until then."

This tribute was added by Kate Melia on 14th June 2017

"Dearest Sheehan: When I think of your mom, Ruthie, I picture her teaching us how to paint, draw and sculpt in the basement of the San Jose Museum of Art. The year is 1982, and she gave us each a taste of what it was to be a real artist. ~ You are lucky to have such a warm, funny, talented and effortlessly hip mother. For me, her name is synonymous with artistry, authenticity, vibrance, joy, adventure, bold colors, texture and a little bit of healthy silliness. But with all that, your mom was also wise, piercingly so. I remember the sideways looks only she could give, looks that were laced with such wit and wry she didn't quite believe what we were saying. I love your mom. She had guts and dimension. She is one of the greats, a legend, and she will live on in our hearts and minds forever. ~The Melias will always be fans."

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This memorial is administered by:

Tamiko Rast
Indira Chakrabarti
Sheehan Grant


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