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Elders' ally Ruth Jacobs dies

A nurse by profession, she championed seniors' rights in leadership roles with several groups.

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ruth M. Jacobs, a champion of senior citizens' rights and a candidate four times for City Council, has died. She was 92.

Mrs. Jacobs, a former director of nursing services for the South Pinellas Chapter of the American Red Cross, died Tuesday (Feb. 18, 2003) at Largo Medical Center.

She was active in numerous social agencies and had leadership roles at the St. Petersburg Commission on Aging, the South Pinellas Senior Citizens Club, the gerontology section of United Way and the Pinellas County Nutrition Committee.

"I'm really interested in life," the former president of the Florida Nurses Association once told a newspaper reporter interviewing persons who had chosen to continue working past age 65. "I believe in living as long as you're able to. I don't think about my age," said Mrs. Jacobs, who was 69 at the time.

In the fields of politics and civic activism, Mrs. Jacobs was a past president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations and the Disston Heights Civic Association.

As a 1983 City Council candidate, she supported improvements to the Bayfront Center and the Pier. In her second campaign against council member Charles L. "Chuck" Fisher in 1985, she fought construction of the dome now named Tropicana Field. In 1974 she ran against incumbent J. W. Cate and in 1981 against incumbent Sally Wallace.

In her unsuccessful races, Mrs. Jacobs, a former member of the Silver Haired Legislature, courted the votes of the elderly.

Running against Wallace, she suggested in her talks that "us old people" needed someone to represent them in city government. She wanted more protection against crime, improved bus service and, for those living downtown, more stores and facilities.

"I am one of you," the candidate, then 70, told elderly audiences at dining centers in her soft, sometimes cracking voice. "The power is within us . . . The power is within you. If we seniors want to get together and get some power in our hands, we've got to put our power where the vote is."

She was born in Saluda, S.C., and received a bachelor's degree in public health nursing from Catholic University in 1949. She joined the local Red Cross chapter in 1956, retiring in 1971.

Mrs. Jacobs, who had been a registered nurse at Alpine Nursing Home, was a 47-year member of the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg.

Her husband of 43 years, John H., died in 2001. Survivors include a daughter, Diane Mottola, Morganville, N.J.,; a son, Robert Harrison, Dallas; two stepchildren, Cheryl Taylor, Irvine, Calif., and Dick Jacobs, Ellicott City, Md.; nine grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Friends may call from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at R. Lee Williams & Son Funeral Home, 3530 49th St. N. A funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday there, with burial at Memorial Park Cemetery.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Ruth M. Jacobs Scholarship Fund, Florida Nurses Association, District 13, P.O. Box 10789, St. Petersburg, FL 33733.

-- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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