Ethel Ruth (Klein) Small

July 27, 1929 ~ July 22, 2023 (age 93) 93 Years Old


Ethel Ruth Klein Small died peacefully in her sleep on 22 July 2023 five days before her 94th birthday. She was the wife of Robert Small and lived in the Annapolis, Maryland area. A loving wife, devoted mother and grandmother, passionate volunteer, and trusted friend, Ruth will be truly missed. Ruth is survived by her husband Robert Small; her two sons Richard and Andrew Small and their wives Margaret and Karen; and her grandchildren Jacob and Rhianon Small.

Born in Sunbury, Pennsylvania on 27 July 1929 to Ethel Geiger Klein and William Jacob Klein, Ruth’s early childhood was spent along the Susquehanna River often helping her parents with their gas station and restaurant at Ted’s Landing. Later, her tales of growing up along the Susquehanna during the Great Depression, the river floods, and Reading Railroad train wrecks would paint a vivid storied picture for her two sons. After graduation from High School, she followed in her mother’s foot-steps and attended college to earn a teaching degree. Ruth received her Bachelor of Science in Education from West Chester State Teacher’s College in 1951.

After graduation, Ruth was accepted by the Navy into the last WWII era WAVE Officer Class of Regular Women Officers, Class W-6. In Newport, Rhode Island, during her Officer’s Indoctrination Training, she met her soul mate (and later husband). Upon completion, Ruth was selected by then Captain Hyman Rickover, to be in-charge of his Interviews and selection of prospective Officers and civilian Engineers for the Nuclear Reactor Development Program as well as the selection of officers for the first crews of the USS Nautilus and USS Seawolf. Working out of offices on what is now the Mall in DC, she also was in-charge of setting up Captain Rickover’s various presentations of reactor systems and fuel rods to Congressional Committees, the Chief of Naval Operations, and in the Oval Office of President Harry S. Truman.

On 28 March 1953, LTJG Ruth Klein married LTJG Robert (Bob) Small, her love of over 70 years of marriage. This was the same day that the world’s first nuclear reactor, located in Arco, Idaho “went critical” (began making power) resulting in many of Ruth’s office, including RADM Rickover and his wife, being unable to attend. A few years later, Ruth was Honorably Discharged from the US Navy in-order to start a family with Bob. Now a Navy wife and mother, Ruth kept the home through fifteen moves that included Carmel California, where her first son Richard was born, Cape Canaveral Florida, where her second son Andrew was born. Later locations included such exotic places as Ft Leavenworth Kansas, Beaconsfield England, Bremerton Washington, Coronado California and McLean Virginia. Great family friendships and bonds were made during these naval tours.

During Bob’s tours of duty in the DC area and Norfolk, Ruth taught elementary school and actively volunteered at her church. At St Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in McLean Virginia, Ruth established a St Martha’s Guild to provide food for church events and even local high school functions. A member of the church’s Saints and Cynics dinner theater group, she also directed melodramas and plays winning several Washington DC area awards. Her organizational, logistics and cooking skills were always put to excellent use supporting the dinner portion of the theater. At home, where ever the location, the cookie jar was always full of delicious home baked cookies.

Later, after moving to Annapolis, Ruth became a US Naval Academy tour guide and member of the Chapel’s Chorale where she made great friends. For 32 years, Ruth was a Naval Academy Wedding Hostess. Several couples she helped in her earlier years at the Chapel, returned and had Ruth helping again, this time for their son’s or daughter’s wedding.

Ruth and Bob traveled the globe. This included sailing adventures, walking tours and cruises where they made more great friendships. At home, she loved her garden. She also loved to entertain with great dinner parties and luncheons. Ruth will be terribly missed by her husband, family and the many friends she made over her full life. She is now at peace.

Ruth will be laid to rest on Monday, 31 July. A memorial service at the US Naval Academy Chapel will follow at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be given to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center’s Merkel Cell Carcinoma Research at

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