Ruth H. de Blasis, 85, an afficionado of the opera who was well known in East Hampton as a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Ladies Village Improvement Society, died after a long illness on Aug. 14 in Omaha, where she had lived in recent years. Her family described her as a woman of grace and humor, who always had a welcoming smile.
Ms. de Blasis had a Ph.D. in education and had taught at Carnegie Mellon University. After marrying and moving to Cincinatti, she became known as the “story lady” of the Cincinatti Zoo Opera, where she told audiences, mostly of children, about the operas they would see.
A soprano who sang in many church choirs, Ms. de Blasis was steeped in opera history. When the zoo opera moved to larger quarters and her husband became general director of the Cincinnati Opera, she began previewing operas for adult audiences, discussing plots and highlights. Eventually her audiences grew to number in the thousands, and she took her previews throughout Cincinnati, to schools, malls, and Cincinnati’s Franklin Square, where, her family wrote, she “preached the gospel of opera.” She also wrote program notes and frequently entertained stars of the opera and donors at home.
Ms. de Blasis was born on Oct. 12, 1926, in Wheeling, W.Va., to the former Wilma Zimmerman and Henry Hofreuter. She and James de Blasis were married in 1957.
After receiving master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, Ms. de Blasis began a 27-year teaching career at Mount de Chantal Academy, a Catholic school in Wheeling. She later became a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty.
When the couple later settled in Amagansett, Ms. de Blasis joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where she often volunteered. She also worked as a volunteer for East End Hospice, where she co-chaired its fund-raisers called Songs for a Summer Night and coined the phrase “The Joy of Not Cooking” for the organization’s annual restaurant benefit.
Ms. de Blasis is survived by her husband, who lives in Omaha, a daughter, Blythe Watkins, also of Omaha, and a granddaughter. A brother, Donald Hofreuter, M.D., of Wheeling, W.Va., also survives.
A funeral service was held on Monday at St. Luke’s Church, followed by a reception there. Burial took place at Cedar Lawn Cemetery in East Hampton. Ms. de Blasis’s family has suggested memorial donations to St. Joseph Villa Home Care, 1000 North 90th Street, #203, Omaha, Neb., 68114 or to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.