When no one seemed interested in an idea for a local dancing fundraiser based on a popular TV show, a voice in the room spoke up in favour.
The voice belonged to Ruth Blencoe, co-founder of Dancing With the Vernon Stars, who is being fondly remembered by the dance community and beyond following her untimely death from injuries in a North Okanagan traffic accident Friday, Feb. 22.
Blencoe was 43.
“It was my idea (Dancing With the Vernon Stars) but when I brought it up to everybody in the room, everybody just sat there. It was Ruth who said, ‘Let’s just do it,’” said Lorna Lynn Robb, co-founder of the yearly dancing event that raises funds for the North Okanagan Hospice Society, and which celebrated its 11th annual event in 2018.
Blencoe enrolled in Robb’s Cheek To Cheek dance studio as a student in 2004. Robb trained her as a dancer and her talent was so evident she invited Blencoe to become an instructor.
Blencoe eventually took over the studio, renamed it Ruth McGrath Dance, and taught for several years before flipping it back to Robb, who is deeply saddened by her friend’s sudden passing.
“Thank you for sharing your love and passion and sensitivity to this world no matter how harsh you found it,” she wrote on her Facebook page which has many photo tributes to Blencoe.
“Thank you for teaching us to be grateful and for sharing your journey. You will be missed and remembered so fondly by all that you touched.”
The North Okanagan Hospice Society also paid tribute on social media.
“We had the privilege of having Ruth as a dance coach with Dancing with the Vernon Stars for many years and she brought her immense talent, contagious enthusiasm and inspiring instruction to many dancers of this wonderful hospice event.
“Our sincere condolences to her husband and dance partner, George, her children and to all who loved and knew her. We are grateful to Ruth for the joy she brought to so many including our hospice family.”
Away from dance, Blencoe had become a fixture at Kindale Developmental Association fundraising events as a volunteer, starting with the association’s first Spring Fiesta 12 years ago at the urging of her friend, Kindale officer Cindy Masters. The two had been friends for more than 15 years.
“Every so often, you meet someone who is truly going to change your life. Someone who loved so deeply, cherished the love of her life and forever soulmate, her family, her friends and even gave love to the people whose intentions were not kind,” said Masters on her Facebook page.
“She was a light in the darkness, she was warmth in the cold, her smile could light up the room, she encouraged me to dig deeper, push harder, reach for the moon and this community will not be the same without her in it.”
Blencoe eventually joined Kindale’s staff in March 2017.
“When she applied for the job, I felt like I’d won the lottery,” said Masters. “What she brought to this team was unconditional love and just an incredible passion.”
Blencoe is survived by her husband, two children, her parents, brother and two grandmothers, along with many friends and relatives.
A Celebration of Life for Blencoe will be held on Saturday, 2 p.m., at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
A Go Fund Me page has been started to help ease the financial burden on Blencoe’s family. Any funds raised after the expenses will be held in trust with Ruth’s employer, Kindale Developmental Association, in order to provide a legacy scholarship in Ruth’s name to a student at VSS studying in Arts and Theatre.