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Barbara Ann Peterson Ruhlman, 89 years of age, daughter of the late Thomas F. and Ethel (nee Brown) Peterson, sister of the late Thomas F. Peterson, Jr., mother of Robert (Abby) and Randall (Cristi), grandmother of Ryan (Tesse) and Maegan Cross (Jason), great-grandmother of Alei, Graeme & Brooks Ruhlman and Grant Cross.
Barbara was born to Thomas and Ethel Peterson in 1932 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and lived there for her first nine years. The family moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, where Barbara graduated from Laurel School before enrolling at Wellesley in the class of 1954, where she earned a degree in psychology.
Barbara deployed her psychology degree as a hospital social worker before marrying former Air Force lieutenant Jon Ruhlman in 1955. Jon, a Cleveland native was a graduate of Purdue University with graduate degree from the University of Colorado. Together, Jon and Barbara raised two sons, Robert and Randall, while Jon pursued a career with Preformed Line Products, Co. Barbara took on numerous volunteer leadership roles in the arts, education, healthcare, and more in her community. Barbara and Jon avidly pursued their loves of sailing, global travel, and spending time with their two grandchildren together. Sadly, Jon passed away in 2004.
The move to Cleveland in 1941 was occasioned by Barbara’s father, Thomas Peterson, being transferred to head up a new division for American Steel and Wire but more importantly, Tom Peterson went on to found Cleveland based, Preformed Line Products, Co. Barbara was able to witness her dad develop the original product concept, the founding of the company and it’s growth into the global operation it has become, serving the electric utility and communications industries, among others. She served as a Board member of Preformed from 1988 – 2016 when she was appointed Director Emeritus.
An active philanthropist in the Greater Cleveland Community for over 50 years, Barbara served as President of the Thomas F. Peterson Foundation beginning in 1988. She served as a member of the Development Committee of the University Hospitals Board of Directors and served as Chair of the MacDonald’s Women’s Health Leadership Council. She served on the Board of the Arthritis Foundation Northeast Ohio Chapter for over 20 years as well as serving on the Hunger Network Board. She served as a Trustee of Laurel School, her Alma Mata, for over 20 years. She was elected Trustee Emerita in 2010 at the end of her regular trustee service.
A celebration honoring Barbara's life will be held later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Laurel School`, Development Office, One Lyman Circle, Shaker Heights, OH 44122, University Hospitals, designated for the Barbara Peterson Ruhlman Woman and New Born Center, UHgiving.org/Ruhlman, or mail to University Hospitals Institutional Relations & Development; PO Box 94554, Cleveland, OH 44101=4554 or a charity of your choice in honor of her lifelong generosity.
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