Fay Knoll Rusch
DELANSON — A southern, cultured woman, Fay Rusch nurtured four daughters as well as her own cross-bred orchid, “Fay’s Folly.”
Fay Knoll Rusch died on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in Guilderland. She was 83.
Mrs. Rusch was born on Oct. 3, 1929 in Birmingham, Ala., and moved several places during her childhood since her father worked in communications for the United States Army. They lived in Chicago, Ill.; Charlotte, S.C.; and New York City.
“That was the one place she didn’t like,” said Rusch’s daughter, Larkin Rusch, of New York City.
“She always missed the South,” her daughter said. “She liked the southern lifestyle. I think she said ‘Y’all’ all her life. It’s just a slower pace.”
Mrs. Rusch lettered in tennis and swimming, specializing in backstroke at North Central College in Illinois. She was an English student when she met Reuben Rusch, her husband of 63 years, in the North Central gym.
Her daughters remembered Mrs. Rusch as a humorous, outgoing, and opinionated woman — a Democrat who loved watching CNN and spoke with anyone in deep, interesting conversations. She was a dynamo.
She danced the polka with her husband and taught “The Swim” and “The Pony” to her daughters. She broke into song occasionally around the house, with tunes from Elvis Presley and Perry Como. One of her favorites was “Today,” by John Denver.
Mrs. Rusch read fiction widely and had a dry, dead-pan sense of humor.
“She told a joke once about me,” said daughter Catherine Rusch. “My father said, ‘Don’t you think somebody should be following her on her motorcycle?’”
She recalled her mother’s line: “‘Oh, she doesn’t go very fast — I think lots of people will be following her.’”
Mr. Rusch brought his date to eat German food on their first outing, which made a lasting impression on Mrs. Rusch, a cook of ambitious recipes from different cultures. She had Cajun heritage from her mother, who was originally from New Orleans, and her father had German ancestors growing up in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Rusch became a professor of educational psychology at the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the University at Albany.
“I think my mother supported his career pretty extensively,” Ms. Rusch said of her parents. “She took care of all the kids and household chores so he was able to get through his doctorate.”
With a lush garden of flowers and vegetables — where she sometimes spent hours in a day — Mrs. Rusch had fresh cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes in her kitchen. She cooked trout and venison brought home by Mr. Rusch.
“She made schaum torte,” said Larkin Rusch. “It’s a tricky thing, with egg whites that you have to cook just right. It’s crispy on the top. It fluffs all up.”
The Rusches held formal dinner and cocktail parties at their home with Mr. Rusch’s colleagues and friends from the university. Guests wore formal dresses and suits. They drank from crystal glasses and ate with fine china and silverware, surrounded by the antiques that filled the house.
“Your house was a part of your being, what was in your house,” Ms. Rusch said of one of her mother’s distinct values, like dressing appropriately and being polite.
“She wasn’t a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl,” her daughter said. A member of the American Orchid Society, Mrs. Rusch wore a hat and pressed blouse working regularly in her greenhouse of several different orchid species and her large garden. She had plot at the Guilderland Community Garden as well.
Catherine Rusch said their mother always had a sense of adventure. She stressed that her daughters pursue their educations, to be independent and self-supporting.
“We were looking at a tower I was eyeing, to think about climbing, and she said, ‘I would have done it when I was younger.’”
Fay Knoll Rusch is survived by her husband, Dr. Reuben Rusch, Ph.D.; her daughters, Larkin Rusch, Margaret Rusch, and Catherine “Kitty” Rusch and her spouse, Patricia Fuller; her grandsons, Albert Rusch and Robert Puels and his partner, Michelle Tortorici; and her great-granddaughter Ruby Lyn Puels. She is also survived by her sister, Nancy Kalbach, and her dear friend and companion, Nancy Liddle.
Her daughter, Barbara Carol Rusch, died in 1991.
Arrangements are by the Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont; there is no service.
Mourners may go online to www.fredendallfuneralhome.com.
— Marcello Iaia