Ruby Blue, 89, the inspirational yoga teacher regarded by many in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the world as their guru died after a short illness on June 8, 2008.
At the age of 86, Ruby finally agreed to be anointed a swami, a Hindu honorary title meaning teacher or master. Given the Indian name of Neeladevi by her guru in the late l960s, she became Swami Neeladevananda at her investiture in Orleans, France in 2005. Neeladevi or Neeladevananda, Ruby Blue always remained a Jew and lit sabbath candles every Friday night.
Ruby meditated in her Connecticut Avenue apartment down the street from Gold's Gym every morning and stood on her head until her 83rd year, when, as a concession to age, she cut back to the shoulder stand.
The tiny octogenarian was 81 when she began teaching yoga at Gold's Gym. Adored and respected by her muscle-bound colleagues and by the judges, housewives, doctors, politicos, and naval officers who were among her students, she taught packed classes there for half a dozen years. She also taught from time to time at the Jewish Community Center.
Born Ruth Thaler, to a Jewish family in Mielec, Poland, she came to America at the age of nine with her mother and two sisters. After moving to Washington, D. C. in 1931, she graduated from Eastern High School in in l936 and married Harry Blue that same summer. She had been active in the high school's prize-wining chorus, and in the early years of her marriage, worked as a pop singer under the stage name Ruby Blue, with Harry as her manager.
She soon gave up her singing career but for ever after was known to family and friends as Ruby.
In the 1960s, Ruby and her husband Harry were among the first occupants of the Watergate Apartments; during the Nixon years, Attorney General John Mitchell and his wife Martha moved in next-door to them. Many journalists sought interviews during the Watergate scandal, but Ruby, usually a great talker, refused to be interviewed on the doings of her neighbors.
In 1967, which she called "my good year," Ruby first went to the Sivananda Vedanta yoga camp at Val Morin in the Laurentian Mountains in Canada where she met Swami Visnudevananda who would become her guru. She became a stalwart of the camp, her favourite place, and spent summers there for nearly 40 years, often teaching classes and delivering lectures to hundreds of yoga teachers and enthusiasts. An oak tree is being planted there in her honor.
At the end of the l960s, long before yoga became fashionable, Ruby helped found, and was a driving force behind the Sivananda organization's center in Washington, D.C.
Ruby and Harry retired in 1975, sold the family real estate business, and moved to Palm Beach, Florida. Ruby became the county's first yoga instructor when she began teaching at the recreation center. She was presented with an award for service to the town of Palm Beach shortly before she returned to Washington DC in l991 with her ailing husband (who died in 1995). They moved into an apartment on Connecticut Avenue, just down the street from Gold's Gym; at 81, she started her new job as a yoga teacher.
Ruby, given the Indian name of Neeladevi by her guru in the late 1960s, Ruby Blue became Swami Neeladevananda at her investiture in Orleans, France.
Yogic celebrations of her life have been held in Canada, Austria, France, and in Washington, D.C.
A Jewish memorial service was held on Sunday, June 29 at the home of her nephew and niece Dr. and Mrs. Harvey Fenster.
Ruby Blue is survived by her daughter Adrianne Blue of London, a writer; her sons Jeffrey Mark Blue of Middleburg, Va, and Paul Thaler Blue of Paris, both businessmen; and by her three grandsons Nicholas, Benjamin and James Blue.