Remembering Ruth Wilson Salmon, 71, King’s Grant teacher who brought stories to life with costumes, voices

Ruth Wilson Salmon
Ruth Wilson Salmon

Teachers have the opportunity to influence the lives of their students by passing along their knowledge and skills. The truly exceptional teachers continue to influence their students once they’ve left the classroom.

Ruth Wilson Salmon is remembered by those who knew her as undeniably remarkable.

She taught in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and in Williamsburg and Newport News before taking up residence in Virginia Beach. It was here, at King’s Grant Elementary School, that she influenced people of all ages, both students and fellow teachers, with her rare and extraordinary way of bringing her love of reading to life.

Ms. Salmon, of Virginia Beach, died Oct. 17, 2015, in Washington, D.C. She was 71.

Ms. Salmon earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Fairmont State College, according to her obituary. She then earned two Master of Education degrees, one from Old Dominion University and one from George Washington University, and specialized in special education and reading.

Her teaching career spanned 41 years, her obituary said, but even in retirement she felt the pull of school and tutored hundreds of children.

But it wasn’t just the children she taught.

Woodstock Elementary School Principal Amy Hedrick first met Ms. Salmon when her own teaching career began in 1997. Ms. Hedrick taught fourth grade at King’s Grant Elementary School and said Ms. Salmon was her mentor.

“She gave me so many tips and ideas and good advice that I still use today,” Ms. Hedrick said.

It was a deep love of literature that Ms. Salmon passed on to her students, Ms. Hedrick said, and she used her own techniques to do it. She told Ms. Hedrick to help paint a picture in the children’s minds, to make the book like a movie.

Ms. Salmon went all out while she read, dressing up for parts and using silly voices, according to Ms. Hedrick. In short, Ms. Salmon made the stories “come alive.”

“She cared about improving the self-esteem of the students by giving them confidence to not only be good readers but to be good leaders,” said Stephanie McClendon, a guidance counselor at King’s Grant Elementary School.

Ms. McClendon said Ms. Salmon was also the founder of the Reading Buddies Program. For the program, an older student is paired with a younger student and the two meet on a square of carpet in the mornings after announcements. The older student reads to the younger one, helping both students in the long run, and at the end of the semester the young students write thank-you letters to their older buddies.

“She had such a passion for reading and brought that to the students,” Ms. McClendon said.

King’s Grant Elementary School Principal Lisa Hannah said she knew Ms. Salmon through their sorority, Delta Kappa Gamma, and said she was “always so soft-spoken and positive.” When she was hired as the principal last year, Ms. Salmon came to congratulate her and talked about how much she loved being part of the community.

“She will be truly missed by all whose lives she touched,” Ms. Hannah said.

Ms. Salmon was born on Oct. 7, 1944, in Morgantown, West Virginia. She was a longtime, active member of King’s Grant Presbyterian Church and vice president and treasurer of the May Farm Garden Club. She was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma International Education Society, Gamma Pi Chapter and the Virginia Beach Reading Council.

Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Stephen Siffel III and parents, Paul W. and Inez M. Wilson.

She is survived by her daughter, Melanie S. Moore and three grandsons, Taylor, Spencer Jr. and Matthew Moore, of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina; son, Russell Anderson (Migle), of Alexandria; sisters, Eleanor Wilson, of Falls Church and Pauline Shaver, of Charleston, West Virginia; brothers, James Wilson (Victoria), of Galion, Ohio and Kenneth Wilson and Robert Wilson, of Fairmont, West Virginia; brother-in-law, Brian Siffel (Stacy), of Arnold, Maryland; and a host of nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, at Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home, Lynnhaven Chapel in Virginia Beach. A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, at King’s Grant Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Christina Carrasco presiding. A reception will follow. Interment will be held at the Siffel family plot that afternoon at Peninsula Memorial Park, Newport News.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed in Ruth’s name to the Leukemia Research Foundation or King’s Grant Presbyterian Church.

Please leave online condolences for the family in the comment section below.

To view the full list of Southside Daily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for Southside Daily. Reach her at 757-565-1079 ex. 222 or obits@tideradio.com.

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