Judith R. Diehl Judith R. Diehl

Judith Ruhe Diehl passed away peacefully on May 6, 2016 at Luther Crest in Allentown following a brief illness. Born July 3, 1926, she was the daughter of Percy Bott Ruhe, long-time editor of the Allentown Morning Call, and Amy Sieger Ruhe, community leader and one of the first suffragists in the Lehigh Valley. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship, Judith was an accomplished activist, writer, singer, matriarch, and public servant. She was married to William E. Diehl, also of Luther Crest, for 68 years and they shared a deep commitment to family, faith, and causes that promoted social justice and equity. Judith especially dedicated her considerable energies to work on behalf of the voiceless and disenfranchised and for full equality for women. Judith was a force in Lehigh Valley politics. She was part of a government study commission which recommended the change in Lehigh County from a three commissioner form of government to an elected executive plus a nine member board of commissioners. When the voters agreed to the change, she won a seat on the legislative body and served as County Commissioner for seven years. She was among the first women to hold elected office in the county. A long-time volunteer for the Democratic party and for progressive causes, she served as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Her service to the Lehigh Valley was prodigious. She served on many Boards of Directors, including the Lehigh County Historical Society, The PROGRAM for Women and Families, Muhlenberg College, Community Music School, Allentown Symphony Association, Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh County Senior Center, Blue Shield of Pennsylvania and the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts. Even in her later years, she continued service work as a driver for Meals on Wheels service, President of the Luther Crest Residents’ Association, and Associate Editor of Luther Crest’s publications. Judith and her husband gave generously of their time and resources to efforts that exemplified the Gospel directives to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick, and look after those imprisoned. Judith worked with the League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women on advocating for improved conditions for women in the Lehigh County prison. She served in Volunteer Friends for Girls on Probation, Project PRY (Protection of the Rights of Youth), the Citizens’ Coalition for a Women’s Prison Annex, and the Children’s Advocacy Committee of Lehigh County. She and Bill helped sponsor refugee families, including German, Cuban, Indian, and Ugandan families. In addition to AAUW, she was a long-time member of Common Cause, Amnesty International, and the Pennsylvania ACLU. Judith prided herself on being a feminist before it became a movement. In her service on Boards and as a County Commissioner, her involvement in supporting women running for office, her encouragement and mentoring of younger woman, and her dedication to family and community, she was a role model for her daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters and many women in the Lehigh Valley. She was also the author of two books – A Woman’s Place: Equal Partnership in Daily Ministry (Fortress Press) and It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (Augsburg Books).

In recognition of her many services, she was honored in 1979 with the Allentown Human Relations Commission Award. She also received the United Way’s WELD Award as the outstanding volunteer; the Outstanding Woman Award, Allentown Branch, AAUW; Community Service Award from the Lehigh County Senior Center; and the joint award with her husband of the Jack P. Houlihan Community Volunteer Award from the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. A long-time member of the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Emmaus and, most recently, the First Presbyterian Church in Allentown, she served on the Social Ministry Committee for Holy Spirit, was a Relational Sponsor for the Interfaith Coalition on Poverty in the Lehigh Valley, and was a member of the Lutheran Laity Movement. With her husband, she helped organize focus and study groups concerned with Christian ministry in everyday life. She also loved to sing and participated in many choirs, including Camerata Singers. She was, as a child, one of the first students of the Baum Art School and, as an adult, a steadfast supporter of the school.

Judith was pre-deceased by her parents and seven of her eight siblings, and by a beloved granddaughter, Rebecca Geballe. Survivors include: her devoted husband, William E. Diehl of Allentown; her children – Shelley Geballe (Gordon) of Stony Creek, Connecticut; William A. Diehl (Jeanne Birdsall) of Northampton, MA; Georgia Rackley of Enola, PA, and Jennifer Welborn (Carlos Gradil) of Amherst, MA. She is also survived by nine grandchildren – Joshua (Allison), Benjamin (Rachel), and Daniel (Linda) Geballe; David and Amy (Tim Carlson) Diehl; Nicholas (Laura) and Brendan Rackley; and Kelsey and Jesse Welborn, as well as nine great-grandchildren -- William, Kaylee, Shai, Avi, Micah, Ezra, Mealea, Quinn and Elliott. Her family is deeply grateful for her love, devotion, and unwavering example of a long, caring and impactful life.

A Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. in Crest Hall at Luther Crest, 800 Hausman Road in Allentown.

In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Muhlenberg College (attention: Judith Ruhe Diehl Memorial Fund), 2400 Chew Street, Allentown, PA 18104 or to the Community Music School of the Lehigh Valley, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 North Sixth Street, Allentown, PA 18101.

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