by Laura Haywood
Kathryn Kolkhorst Ruddy, who died on September 10, 2020, was one-half of a legendary partnership that helmed Juneau Jazz & Classics for over thirty years. Kathy, as board chair, together with artistic director Linda Rosenthal, formed the backbone of Juneau Jazz & Classics, our local music festival that is still thriving. Her leadership was comprised of equal parts love of community, love of music, love of service, and boundless energy. Very little in life didn’t interest Kathy and Juneau Jazz & Classics benefited from her unending supply of ideas and enthusiasm.
Kathy’s love for Juneau helped keep the festival firmly grounded as a local event, while bringing in talent from all over the world. Here are some of the things we loved most about her:
Generosity: Kathy gave and gave, to everyone and anyone, in any way possible. For a music festival, her generosity comprised so much more than money. It meant copious amounts of her time, as well as places for musicians to stay, meals, loaner cars – in short, whatever she had, whenever and wherever it was needed.
Inclusiveness: Kathy wanted everyone to enjoy the festival, whether they could pay for tickets or not. Every year at festival time – thanks to our Music for Juneau program – Kathy would drive around town distributing free concert tickets to local non-profits so that their clients and staff could attend. Access to music for Juneau’s children meant so much to her; Kathy was a driving force behind the Jane and Thomas B. Stewart Education Fund that helps us provide scholarships, workshops, and free concerts for Juneau’s schoolchildren.
Master strategist: Kathy was an attorney – and the traits that made her a terrific lawyer also served festival management very well. She could see both sides of any issue, anticipate possible stumbling blocks, and figure out solutions – often all within moments!
Attention to detail: Kathy kept track of a million festival details. Here’s a Kathy Ruddy ProTip: When you need to remember something, speak into a little recorder that you keep in your pocket. (She pioneered this technique long before cell phones started to store all our little random notes.)
Warmth: Kathy would roam the crowd before and after concerts, chatting with everyone and making all feel welcome and appreciated. Her smile lit up her “curtain speeches” and festival receptions. Kathy and her husband, Bill, threw legendary parties. Kathy was the social butterfly, pouring drinks and introducing everyone to everyone else, while Bill stayed at the grill, cranking out mass quantities of salmon and steaks. Their guests always left their home nourished both physically and emotionally.
Kathy retired from Juneau Jazz & Classics in 2017. She stayed an extra year after Linda’s retirement to help make sure we would survive and thrive. Tragically, Kathy’s illness cut short her post-festival life — we wish we had had her around longer as a mentor, adviser, and beloved friend. We will always keep her in our hearts.