Ruth-Anne originally hails from Portland, Oregon, and moved to Cicely, Alaska when her husband passed away. In a later episode, it is revealed that her grandfather was an early settler of Alaska and died during a blizzard, but his family never joined him, and reading his letters home is what prompted her to come to Alaska.
She has two sons: Matthew, a successful investment banker in Atlanta, and Rudy, a part-time pastoral poet and full-time truck driver in Portland, Oregon. When first mentioning them to Ed, she expresses pride with Rudy, but disappointment with Matthew's career choice, as she would have preferred he continued playing the trumpet. In a later episode, Matthew tries to quit banking and, initially this pleases her, but later realizes this is wrong and banking is what he should do. Also, part of her problem with banking is that it means Matthew is, "More like me than I would like you to be", since her job is also more finance/business than art or travel.
Revelations about Ruth-Anne, over the course of the series, include:
- She is an unapologetic cigarette smoker
- Had an extramarital affair during World War II
- Has saved money every week to exercise the option of buying her store from Maurice (who is insulted and furious at the lack of control he now exercises over her business)
She is not embarrassed by sexual discussion, so much so that when Joel shyly asks her for catalogs of women underwear models, under a strained excuse she is at first confused, but then very matter-of-factly makes a suggestion of other material suitable for "onanistic purposes", horribly embarrassing Joel.
She likes to birdwatch and, towards the end of the series, Ruth-Anne begins broadcasting the "Tales of Cicely" for National Public Radio. She tries to learn Italian, too. In the next episode, she steals Chris' Harley-Davidson and goes out on a joy ride. She claims she used to have a 1948 Knucklehead with an extended front end and bobbed fenders. Ed spreads gossip about Ruth-Anne's private life. In the season 6 premiere fantasy episode, she plays a medical doctor who considers Joel for a partnership.
- "The Body in Question" (3-6)
Ed (walks into the general store): Mornin', Ruth-Anne!
Ruth-Anne: Oh, hi Ed...I can put your name on a waiting list. (begins writing his name down on the list)
Ed: Ohhh, thanks Ruth-Anne!
Ruth-Anne: Number 17.
Ed: What's the list for?
Ruth-Anne (looks at him oddly): You didn't come in for books on Napoleon?
Ed (inspired): No but that's an excellent idea!
Ruth-Anne: Well, what can I get you then?
Ed: Oh, I came in because of the sign in the window.
Ruth-Anne: "Special on Huggies"?
Ed: No, the "Help Wanted" sign.
(Ed and Ruth-Anne after having dinner in his apartment)
Ed: Where are your kids now?
Ruth-Anne: Rudy's in Portland. He drives a truck. He writes pastoral poetry in his spare time. (sighs) And Matthew...that boy had such promise...
Ed: What happened to him?
Ruth-Anne: He's in Chicago...he's an investment banker...
Ed: I'm sorry...
Ruth-Anne: Life's full of surpises, Ed--some happy and some not.
(Ed tells Ruth-Anne about his script rejection)
Ruth-Anne: What are you going to do?
Ed: I think this is what they call a "critical juncture" in a young man's career.
Ruth-Anne: Remember my son I told you about, the investment banker?
Ruth-Anne: Matthew...that boy could've been a musician. You should've heard him play the trumpet...just like Bix Beiderbecke; warm, round tone...and I ruined it for him. To this day I feel guilty.
Ed: You-you told him to quit?
Ruth-Anne: No...I told him to play all the time. I told him how good he was. You see, Ed, I didn't put anything in his way... An artist needs obstacles. He needs to contend; to find out what he's made out of. Matthew didn't have to fight for his art. Eventually, he forgot the horn, went to business school, and you know the rest.
Ed: Was he really good?
Ruth-Anne: Well, I don't know whether he could've earned a living...but I do know...that when he left his music behind he left part of his soul.
(Ed slowly lines up a label dispenser on a can)
Ruth-Anne: Give it here.
(Ruth-Ann quickly labels the cans)
(Ruth-Anne presents her arm to Ed)
Ruth-Anne: Feel that.
(Ed feels her wrist muscle)
Ed: Bands of steel.
Ruth-Anne: Years of labeling.
Ed: Think I could ever learn to do that, Ruth-Anne?
Ruth-Anne (looks sternly at him): Ed, I think you can do anything that you put your mind to.
Ruth-Anne: Why not?
Ed: No one ever said that to me before, Ruth-Anne...
Ruth-Anne: What've other folks got that you haven't got?
Ruth-Anne: They can be as much a hindrance as a help, Ed, believe me. Remember what I was telling you yesterday?
Ed (nodding): There's this screenwriter, William Goldman--he wrote Butch Cassidy, um, All the President's Men...Misery...
Ruth-Anne: Sounds top-notch.
Ed: Oh, he is. You know, he said, "nobody in Hollywood knows anything". But I know something.
Ruth-Anne: What's that?
Ed: I'm never paying anyone $200 to read my scripts again. They can stand in line and see the movie just like everyone else.
Ruth-Anne (with a fist pump): That's the spirit!
Ed (smiling): Pass the labeler please.
- "A-Hunting We Will Go" (3-8)
(Shelly hurridely walks by)
Ruth-Anne: Hi, Shelly!
Shelly: Hi! Bye!
Ruth-Anne: Is Holling around?
Ruth-Anne (to Chris): Y'know, sometimes her energy scares me a little.
Chris: Shelly? Nah, she just runs on an open circuit, that's all.
Ruth-Anne: But is her ground wire connected? That's my concern...
Chris (smiling): Right, right...
(Ruth-Anne opens Ed's birthday gift to her: a jar of dirt)
Ed: Uhm...it's for your grave.
Ruth-Anne: My grave?! You bought me a grave for my birthday?
Ed: Do you like it?
Ruth-Anne: Yes...yes, I do, Ed. It's a great spot to spend eternity.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 "A-Hunting We Will Go" (3-8)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Cup of Joe" (5-9)
- ↑ "A River Doesn't Run Through It" (5-5)
- ↑ "Blowing Bubbles" (4-5)
- ↑ "Hello, I Love You" (5-15)
- ↑ "Up River" (6-8)
- ↑ "The Mommy's Curse" (6-14)
- ↑ "Revelations" (4-12>
- ↑ "Love's Labour Mislaid" (4-17)
- ↑ "Little Italy" (6-18)
- ↑ "Una Volta in L'Inverno" (5-17)
- ↑ "Fish Story" (5-18)
- ↑ "A Wing and a Prayer" (5-20)
- ↑ "Dinner at 7:30" (6-1)