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December 6, 2013

A 67-year-old caroling tradition

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

The Navy catapulted her into a hidden world, a world of intrigue. After training, Ruthanna was assigned as an instructor in cryptology at the officer training school at Smith College in Massachusetts. Ruthanna was part of a tiny, highly classified, elite corps. Lives depended on the accuracy of the information it encoded. Ruthanna and the women she taught worked for hours every day, pushing for 100 percent accuracy. The material they worked with was so sensitive they burned everything at the end of each day. "It was very, very hush-hush, very, very secret," Ruthanna recalls.

But not even the war interrupted Ruthanna's music. Almost as soon as she arrived at Smith, she was asked to serve as music director for the WAVES choir. She held that position throughout her service, and even wrote the school's WAVES songbook.

A year after joining the Navy, Ruthanna met her first husband, Marshall Brushart, an oral surgeon, through mutual friends. A few months later on Dec. 4, 1943, the two married and moved into Brushart's new home in a neighborhood that was considered rural: Kenwood. Ruthanna has for 70 years lived in this house at the top of Highland Drive — untouched by renovations and with the floorboards her first husband pegged. The last 30 she has been by herself, having outlived both her husbands.

Little did Ruthanna know in 1943 how important this new community would become to her, and what an important part of the community she would be. From the moment she arrived, Ruthanna has participated in most neighborhood events. Or, more accurately, started many of them. And one in particular is one of Kenwood's most cherished.

"Kenwood is a great place to live," said Bob Shaffer, a real estate agent and former president of the Kenwood Citizens Association. "People don't know how warm the neighborhood is until they live here."

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