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Late Ottawa Art League president's paintings to fund scholarship

Ruby Jovanovich tended to wounded and watercolors during her 84 years.

"She was like an idol. It was my goal to have work like hers," said Ottawa Art League President Sharon Danielson.

Ruby, who died in 2002, was a founding member of the league and its first president from 1968 to 1986. She also served as an Army nurse during World War II and then as a nurse in civilian life. For many years, she was the nurse in charge of the tuberculosis unit at Highland Sanitorium on Ottawa's South Side. She also worked at Ryburn King Hospital in Ottawa and St. Mary's Hospital in Streator.

Ruby was all over the local scene, holding various posts and memberships, including in the American Legion, Zonta, her church and nursing associations. She met her husband, Victor Jovanovich, in the service. They had a son, Tony.

However, she always kept close to her easel, brushes and paints.

Ruby's son and husband died before her, so many of her art works were inherited by her nephew, Fred Jovanovich of Ottawa, who has donated about 40 of them to be sold for an art scholarship.

"Her love was nursing and painting. She took painting classes up to the time she died. We wanted to honor her," Fred said.

The art league is going to sell the paintings during a show from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, at The Paintbox Gallery in the Westclox building on Fifth Street in Peru.

Proceeds from the sale will fund a scholarship for a local art student.

Most of the works to be sold are watercolors, with a few oils. The oldest dated painting is an oil of Jesus done in 1957. Many of the other canvases are of flowers and landscapes.

Several art league members spent a recent afternoon cleaning the paintings and in some cases, putting them in new frames and mattes, readying them for purchase. In the process, Danielson got an up-close glimpse of her idol.

"It was really fun looking at her progression. How her talent advanced," Danielson observed.

Fred Jovanovich and other family members held on to several of Ruby's paintings, which adorn their walls. These works depict vanished Ottawa bridges, such as the stone span over Covel Creek and Hilliard Bridge, which was brought down more than 30 years ago.

Unlike the long ago bridges, memories of Ruby remain in place, perhaps because of her approach to the world.

The Ottawa Republican-Times profiled Jovanovich in an August 1965 story, in which she offered her philosophy of life.

"God has given me good health to do a few things in this world and I guess I can do a little for others. My creed is that everything kind, generous and loving that one does, returns many times over and just when you need it."

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