Focus On: Kelle & Jeff Ruden

Originally hailing from Texas, Kelle Ruden has lived in Westport for 20 years with her husband Jeffrey, who grew up in Westport and graduated from Staples High School in 1982. Many around town know Kelle as an avid gardener who is a past President of the Westport Garden Club and for her previous work as the Programs Director at Westport Library. 

“We are both able to work from home and we are enjoying taking breaks together for a meal or a walk to the end of our road, checking on friends and family and catching up on the latest news. I am also coordinating volunteers to shop for members of our congregation and participating in services and classes via Zoom. 

Jeffrey is Managing Director and Senior Commercial Banker for Fieldpoint Private, I work part time as Lecture Coordinator for Shankar Vedantam, host of NPR’s Hidden Brain. Jeffrey has been working from home since March 12 and his work has been busy because of the reduction in interest rates. Both of us have worked with clients who are anxious about the coming months and the uncertainty of these times. 

Mastering Zoom, upgrading WIFI speed and navigating canceled events dominated the early days. Of course, as the days went on, worries about friends and family became paramount. My brother is deemed “essential” in Houston and had been working without a mask or gloves but he now has them.  Jeff’s mom suffers from Alzheimer’s and cannot really communicate and we cannot see her.  We have concerns for friends whose businesses are suffering and our town, our nation and those who are struggling to get by or are losing their livelihoods and their lives. 

We had heard a bit about the virus in China in January but the reality that it would come to us all struck when we were on a cruise from Feb. 1-15 in the Caribbean. Halfway through the trip- on Feb. 7, the ship was in port in San Juan and the crew began enacting virus protocols- the entire library, board games and puzzles were removed, menus were shrink wrapped after disinfecting, and all on board were asked to refrain from handshaking and to wash hands frequently. And, of course, the ship was cleaned rigorously and constantly.  

At home, after the initial “denial” phase, people seemed to hunker down and show real concern for their neighbors. Our town leaders have been incredible during a very trying time. A huge shout out not just to our first responders, medical folks and clergy- but to our pharmacy workers, grocery store clerks and food service workers who are seeing us all through this. 

A huge shout out not just to our first responders, medical folks and clergy- but to our pharmacy workers, grocery store clerks and food service workers

COVID forced many of us into a “hard stop” and presented an opportunity to step away from a frantic pace that did not allow for time to rest and recharge, to think or to dream. Of course, many workers have not had the luxury to stop during this time and my hope for them is that they stay well and are celebrated and well compensated for all they have done. We are grateful for this amazing community we live in, and our incredible neighbors.  

My family settled in Texas in 1840 and as Dan Rather once said: “Always marry a woman from Texas. No matter how tough things get, she’s seen tougher.” But more seriously, we are both at an age where we have experienced loss and hardship and had the benefit of the wisdom of family members who have lived through worse: hunger, war and deprivation. This is a challenging time with great loss of life, but historically our country has been through even worse and has come out stronger. 

Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.