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She Brought Music To Kids

February 7th, 2014 (12:36 pm)

Ruthanne Lodato, cropped
My usually cheerful neighborhood is a sad and nervous place today. We're stunned at the senseless murder of Ruthanne Lodato. It seems that every family with children knew Ruthanne. She taught our kids the joy of music when they were toddlers, or she taught them piano when they reached school age. She was kind and loving, and the children adored her because she let them be themselves. She frequented the same shops and restaurants that we all do. And when we ran into her, which happened a lot, she always remembered the names of the children, even years after they left her classes.

Yesterday morning, a gray-haired man with a beard came to the door of Ruthanne's house. She opened the door, accompanied by the health-care worker who takes care of Ruthanne's elderly mother. And the man shot them both; nobody knows why. Ruthanne died in the hospital a while later. The other woman's injuries weren't serious, and she was able to tell police what happened.

In November there was another murder nearby. A man was shot in his house, but there were no witnesses and few leads. He was a transportation-planning official; some people speculated that the murder may have had something to do with his job. Now everyone is wondering if the two cases are related. If so, this seems to be random. Should we be afraid to answer the door?

Ruthanne was 59 years old. She leaves behind a husband and three grown children, and my thoughts are with them today. But she influenced the lives of so many more children, all over the city. Now, parents don't know how to tell their children they won't have classes with Ms. Ruthanne anymore. Parents are leaving flowers in front of Ruthanne's house. Former students are leaving their music books. I guess we're all feeling helpless and want to do something, anything, even if it's only a symbolic gesture. A kind of goodbye.

All the sweet and silly Music Together songs the children danced and sang to keep running through my head. The last time I saw Ruthanne was a few weeks ago, at the Del Ray Farmers' Market. She asked about Jon Morgan, and I told her what a gifted musician he is becoming. I told her she could take some of the credit for that. But she can take credit for a lot more. She has given so many children the gift of music, and so many parents the gift of her time, her skill, and her enthusiasm. Her loss is a huge one for this community, though her music goes on, through my son and so many other children who shook maracas, rang bells, and waves scarves around the room with Miss Ruthanne.

Today the police are everywhere, which feels reassuring. And our thoughts are with them, too, as they try to find the man who did this.