Ruth Timmons, a “hidden figure” in plain sight, deceased at 90
Ruth Marie Timmons died peacefully in her Edgewater home in Chicago, early morning on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.
Born Ruth Marie Cecilia Smith on April 27, 1930 in New Orleans, Ruth was the first generation in her family to attend college. There she began dating her husband William Edward (Bill) Timmons, whom she met in high school. Ruth graduated Dillard University in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at a time when few women entered scientific fields.
As part of the Great Migration, she would join trail-blazing African American women who participated in some of the most significant scientific accomplishments of the twentieth century.
Ruth became a biochemist at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the research team that discovered DNA.
She performed biochemistry research at Michael Reese Hospital, Northwestern University, and Loyola University.
In 2018, she retired after more than thirty years as a biochemist at the City of Chicago Jardine Water Purification Plant.
Between 1955 and 1970, Ruth and Bill had four children (Anne, Bruce, Craig, and Dawn) and divorced in 1977. In 1980, she met Chester Bera, another scientist at Jardine. He would become her partner until his death in 1998.
During the 1970s Ruth served as a board member of the Community Fund of Chicago which later became part of United Way charities. Over the past 25 years she was a parishioner at St Gertrude East Catholic Church.
Ruth combined her chemistry and culinary skills in the kitchen as a master baker and pastry chef. During the 1970s her pastries earned a popular eatery in Chicago’s Hyde Park, Kafenio, top reviews from both the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune.
Ruth enjoyed blues, jazz, and fashion. She combined her “just so” sense of style with sewing expertise to design and make the red couture dress her youngest daughter proudly wore to her prom at the Latin School.
Ruth is survived by two sisters, Alma V. Smith-Young of Chicago and Betty Mae Smith-Etianne of New Orleans; her four children, Anne Renee Timmons-Harris, Bruce Everett Timmons, Craig Anthony Timmons, and Dawn Olivia Timmons, as well of her sense of humor (she named her four children alphabetically by age with the resulting initials: ART, BET, CAT, and DOT).