Spirit of Generosity | John and Ruth McKevitt | Project HOME

Spirit of Generosity | John and Ruth McKevitt


Raised on the western side of Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, John and Ruth McKevitt learned to thrive as transplants. They made Ann Arbor, Michigan, their home for the first half of their 63-year marriage, and Philadelphia home for the second.

John, born in 1919, grew up in Ironwood, Michigan, where his Irish – Catholic family served the immigrant ore miners and mining businessmen with a funeral home and furniture store.

Ruth was born to a Catholic family in 1918 in nearby Crystal Falls. Her father, an agent for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, served on the county welfare commission. Ruth and John met at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After graduation, Ruth held various social service positions, including an appointment as one of the original five civil-service policewomen of Detroit, aiding young people who had committed minor and serious offenses.

Ruth and John married in 1943, shortly before John left for Europe to serve with the U.S. Army during World War II. He was seriously wounded at Monte Casino, and received the Purple Heart. Following the war, he earned his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan and worked there in campus planning. Like many women of her generation, Ruth gave up a promising career for marriage and a family.

After raising their family in Ann Arbor, Ruth and John moved to Philadelphia in 1969. Enticed by the challenges of responsible campus expansion in an inner-city environment, John accepted a position at Temple University. John believed in the transformative nature of change and the power of a big smile. A man of faith and letters, he was generous to a fault. His favorite literary form was poetry, particularly W. H. Auden and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Ruth was an avid bird watcher and an accomplished gardener, recorder player, and seamstress. A woman of deep faith and high standards, she had special compassion for people who are homeless or in poverty. She volunteered with hospice and a soup kitchen, where she became aware of Sister Mary Scullion’s very early advocacy for people who are homeless and mentally ill.

Ruth and John followed the work of Project HOME with great admiration. Upon their deaths—John at 87 in 2008 and Ruth at 97 in 2015—they left a generous portion of their estate to our work. Their earthly legacy secure in the city of brotherly love, the couple asked that their remains be returned to the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where they rest in a forested cemetery on the banks of the Paint River in Crystal Falls.