Holly Watkins Ruff

Holly Watkins Ruff passed away January 3. Holly was born in Jackson,  on January 16, 1967, to Rowena McClinton and James Edward Ruff II.

Holly was graduated from Jackson Prep in 1985. She received the Danforth Leadership Award while at Prep and she was treasurer of her senior class. Holly was a member of Tri Delta sorority at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she graduated with a degree in English literature in 1989.

In her pre-teen and teenage years, Holly was known as an accomplished tennis player in both singles and doubles. In 1982, the Mississippi Tennis Association named her as the Female Tennis Player of the year. Her rankings included the following: number one in junior singles in Mississippi; number two in junior singles by the Southern Tennis Association; and nationally number 11 in junior singles. After graduating from Chapel Hill, Holly continued her tennis career as a tennis teacher at the San Francisco Racquet Club, and later as an instructor for the continuing education program at Portland State Community College in Portland, Oregon. Over the course of her life Holly taught legions of beginning tennis players of all ages. She was a brilliant teacher. Holly was an astute observer of the game, and she was able to identify her students’ mistakes quickly and yet tactfully. Holly could make the most unconfident player feel successful and even joyful by her enthusiasm and her dynamic teaching techniques. She was also known for teaching camaraderie among players in group lessons.

While living in Illinois, she took her teaching skills to elementary schools in Madison and St. Clair counties, where she served as a paraprofessional. In the summers, she volunteered in a summer literacy program, “Homework to Hoops,” at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Collinsville.

Holly was also an accomplished artist. She began developing her talent in her late 20s by creating simple sketches. She honed her skills over the course of a few years by taking lessons and by daily immersion in her craft. Holly eventually held art shows in Portland, Ore., Mississippi, and Edwardsville, Ill. She took as inspiration for her themes favorite poetry and passages of literature, as well as images from the natural world.

Holly is survived by her mother, Rowena McClinton of Edwardsville, Ill., sisters Rowena York Ruff of Lexington, Ky. and Kathryn Ruff Hildreth (Thomas) of Hollis, N.H.; nieces and nephews Charlie, Caroline, Rowen, and Raymond Hildreth, also of Hollis.  She is also survived by her maternal uncle Raymond McClinton (Susan) of Asheville, N.C., her paternal aunt Rachel Ruff Winkel (Bernard) of Dundee, Miss., and her stepmother, Sue Ruff of Dallas. Her late father, James Edward Ruff II, MD, predeceased her in September of 2016. Her late maternal grandparents are Rowena Green McRae and Raymond McClinton and her late paternal grandparents are Katie Ruth Watkins and Will Childress Ruff.

A celebration of life will be held for Holly at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 18 at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church. Visitation will be held at 9:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials to Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church, 301 N. Congress St., Jackson, Miss., 39201; or to Call for Help, 9400 Lebanon Rd., East St. Louis, Ill., 62203, a nonprofit organization that offers support programs to help individuals achieve their maximum potential.


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