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Ruth Wood Pflager tuned in to youth

August 24, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Ruth Wood Pflager, who died Aug. 10 at the age of 91. Her obituary was published in the Aug. 15 edition of The Herald-Mail.

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Before she died, Ruth Wood Pflager told her loved ones that she wanted to be remembered as a woman who "did what she could, and the rest she left up to God."

Ruth's accomplishments as a professional volunteer - her own words - make one wonder what there might be left to do.

One of Ruth's passions was making sure that children born in the television era were getting the right information from that medium.

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"She had two girls born before World War II, when there was no TV, and then two more children after the war, when there was TV," said Sandra Wischmeyer of Colorado, one of the two children born before WWII.

That chronology made it clear to Ruth that television was having an impact on children, and not all of it was good.

"She taught Sunday school when she lived in Chicago, and she noticed the difference in the children," Sandra said.

When she was living in Chicago, Ruth teamed with a newspaper writer, and together they came up with a booklet that included the names of television advertisers and their addresses so concerned people could weigh in on what was being shown on television.

"She called it media literacy," said daughter Charlene Balistrere, who lives in Waynesboro.

Over the years, Ruth honed and sculpted the crusade and saw it introduced into the school system.

Less than two months before her death Aug. 10 at the age of 91, Ruth was on hand to see the awarding of the first Ruth Wood Pflager Media Literacy scholarship to a graduating senior at Waynesboro Area Senior High School for the TV Tune-In essay contest.

"Mom was like Johnny Appleseed," Sandra said. "She kept planting seeds of education and awareness."

Ruth did that three times - in Chicago, Cleveland and then in Waynesboro, where she and her husband settled when he retired.

Miller "Dan" Pflager, who died in 2007, helped build the first nuclear reactor in Illinois and a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Married for 67 years, the couple moved 13 times during those years, and called Waynesboro home for the past 20 years.

"Mom was always thinking about the future," Charlene said, recalling that her mother liked an expression about planting shade trees you never would sit under.

It wasn't anger that pushed Ruth into action, it was awareness, Charlene said.

"TV is always teaching children, and she thought people should be aware of just what it was teaching them," she said.

Ruth majored in horticulture at the University of Massachusetts. She quickly discovered that people needed her more than plants.

Ruth left home, got a job at a school in Illinois and began pursuing her master's degree in social work.

"Then, she met dad and her life took another turn," Charlene said. They met at a Thanksgiving dinner in 1939, and were married in August 1940.

Once the children came, Ruth decided her first responsibility was to their upbringing. In the process, she got involved in Girl Scouts, Church Women United (CWU) and other organizations.

Through the CWU affiliation, she founded TV Tune-In, USA.

Although Ruth is gone, her family is confident that her mission will live on through the essay contests and scholarship fund.

"She always said she wanted someone to pass the torch to," Charlene said.

TV Tune-In, USA is a component of Communities That Care, Charlene said. The national organization lists 56 prevention programs and policies shown to increase protective factors, reduce risk factors and reduce adolescent problem behaviors in controlled studies.

Ruth would have liked that..

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