MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The Mount Vernon School District was among countless Westchester County outlets to mourn the loss of legendary actress Ruby Dee, who died in her New Rochelle home last week.
Dee – whose daughter Hasna Muhammad is the district’s assistant superintendent of Human Resources – was as renowned for her work on stage and screen as her activism. Her resume spans more than 50 years, from when she starred in the “Jackie Robinson Story” in 1950 to the Denzel Washington-driven “American Gangster” just seven years ago.
The actress, and her husband, playwright Ossie Davis, were constantly raising the idea of social consciousness. In 1963, they served as Masters of Ceremony at the March on Washington and were awarded the Presidential medial for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts in 1995.
In a statement, Muhammad discussed what it was like being raised by Dee, who was 91-years-old at the time of her death.
“As a mother, Ruby Dee was the family disciplinarian, a stickler for etiquette and phone manners,” she said. “(She reared her children) not to accept discrimination, or being mistreated, ignored and neglected.”
During her career, Dee won an Emmy, Grammy and Screen Actors Guild Award for her work. New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said that she was responsible for inspiring countless generations of Americans.
“In New Rochelle, we were privileged to see another side of Ruby, a woman of great personal warmth, who cared deeply for her neighbors. Ruby and her late husband, Ossie Davis, didn’t simply reside in New Rochelle, they were pillars of our community,” he said. “Ruby’s presence in New Rochelle has always been a source of pride to the people of our city. We are united now in gratitude for the opportunity to share in her remarkable life.”
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino issued a statement of his own following the announcement of Dee’s death.
“It is with heavy hearts that we bid farewell to one of our own. A barrier-breaking and wonderfully talented actress, Ruby Dee was blessed with beauty inside and out,” he said. “It was a beauty that belied a steely grit and determination that Ruby used to fight for causes she cared deeply about. Whether it was acting or activism, Ruby Dee always stood tall and proud on center stage. As she exits the stage, we give her one last round of heart applause for a life well lived.”