FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Ruth Augusta Nelson Badgett Smith was born April 4, 1928 to Harry Nelson and Eunice Bess Nelson. She was the youngest of three sisters and 2nd youngest among eight brothers, Harry, Myron, Donald, Frank, Raymond, Norman, Jerry, and Kenneth.
Ruth attended school in Riverhead and graduated from Riverhead High School in Long Island, N.Y. While in high school she was very active in clubs including women's basketball. Following graduation, she became a dedicated apprentice to Mrs. Rose Booker on Flanders Road, where she began her career as an accomplished beautician. During this time, Ruth met, fell in love with and married William Adam Badgett of Great Neck, N.Y. in 1950. The couple had one son, Dr. David Badgett of Tarboro, NC. After the death of William Badgett in 1972, Ruth married her first childhood sweetheart, James W. Smith, Sr. of the Shinnecock nation in 1975. She and her husband, known affectionately as “Dutch,” lived happily for 35 years, until his death in 2010.
From 1952 to 2007, she owned and operated Ruthie’s Beauty Shop, located on Ludlam Avenue in Riverhead. The salon was a neighborhood gathering place and was frequently alive with laughter, playful gossip or hard-won advice. Ruthie – as she was known to friends and customers – mentored numerous young women in her art, as well as the fundamentals of running a thriving business. One would be foolish to mistake her generosity for weakness though. Ruthie set a high bar for her own life’s work and expected the best out of others, often equipping them with the tools and support to reach that potential. She was very proud of the fact that she led her salon as a successful Riverhead institution for more than 50 years. The ingredients for her success included an unflappable work ethic, a commitment to serving others, and an extraordinary business savvy.
Ruthie stayed very active throughout her life with riding her bike, exercising, operating her business, and raising her only son David. She never turned down a request for assistance and proactively sought to support friends, family or community members. Ruthie would spend time visiting the elderly or others that were sometimes overlooked. She would also offer her services free of charge for those who were in need and contributed her time to Seay Memorial Chapel frequently. Even though she was in constant motion, Ruthie always managed to find time to shoot a few hoops with her son after work or during a small break.
Ruthie cared deeply for her family and raised or trained many of her nieces and nephews over the course of her life. She worked very hard instilling the values of hard work, education, and doing for self - finding small jobs for young people to contribute back to the community. Ruthie seldom missed an opportunity to stop the car and speak to young people when she saw them on the street. As an avid reader, she was usually imparting some wisdom to the youth - and didn't care if they weren't quite ready to hear it at the time. Ruthie was a stalwart for individuals especially women to empower themselves with education and/or a trade - which could lead to their own business. "Educate a woman and you educate a family" was one of her typical sayings.
She was a proud wife and mother. Both her husbands, William and Dutch, and her son David, served honorably as veterans of foreign wars, and the US Army respectively. Ruthie lived a life of service that was a testament to her Christian faith. She was a lifetime member of the Woman’s Home and Overseas Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She was a lifelong member of Goodwill AME Church, where she sang in the choir, taught Sunday school, and served on the Steward Board. "I wish I could get more of these kids into the church" she would say often. Ruthie was a whiz at finding the right catchy saying for any situation. She would laugh at her self if she messed up the moral of the saying, but would then retell the saying in the way it had been intended. During the Christmas holidays she would recite an animated version of the "Night Before Christmas," which she knew in its entirety. Ruthie had a beautiful voice and enjoyed singing in the choir. She would sometimes treat friends or even strangers to an impromptu performance of a favorite hymn or her rendition of “Misty.” She loved to travel and often visited David in North Carolina or friends in California. Ruthie and Dutch also vacationed in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
She is survived by her son David, and countless nephews, nieces and friends on whom she poured out her selfless affection and support.