Ethel Hartwell Rutledge of Chatsworth, GA, passed peacefully at her home on December 17, 2021. She was 99 years old and was preceded in death by her parents Ray V. Hartwell and Leola Massengale Hartwell, sister Betty Harriet Hall, brother Ray V. Hartwell lll, husband, Walter Edward Rutledge, and her daughter Sterling Rutledge Bills.
Ethel, born in Atlanta to a family that was involved with the arts, studied piano and ballet with the Southern Ballet Company until developing rheumatic fever. After recovering from her illness, she went on to attend Agnes Scott College and GA State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master's degrees and met her husband of 56 years, Walter Rutledge.
Ethel was a lifelong learner, studying music, dance, and languages after graduating from college. In addition to English, she spoke Spanish, French, and eventually studied German in her 70’s. She spoke all of these with a perfect Southern accent. Her ear for languages served her well during the many international trips she took throughout Europe where she explored her family roots with friends, family, and on tours.
She was also passionate about teaching. She was a teacher in the Atlanta School System for 30 years and taught grades K-7 during her career. Her last school was Garden Hills Elementary. Although a teacher of all subjects, she was an artist at heart. As part of her curriculum, she tied in the study of dance with her history lessons in order to bring to life and incorporate the rhythm of different civilizations. This proved so popular, she started an after-school international dance club that performed throughout Atlanta, receiving awards and citations, while performing for large audiences including the GA Governor.
A few years before retiring, Ethel and Walter attended an education conference at The Lodge on top of Fort Mountain. They were so taken with the beauty of the area they decided to build their retirement home on top of the mountain where they lived until 2002. In 2002, they moved into a home in the valley where she lived until her death.
Shortly after moving to Chatsworth, she noticed there were a lot of abandoned dogs and cats on the mountain and throughout the county. As a lover of animals, she and Walter used their experience to cofound the Murray County Humane Society. To further their cause, she established relationships with many local businesses to supply contribution banks, and those donations, along with the sale of their cookbook, formed the basis of a budget to care for animals and the future of the Murray County Humane Society.
Ethel had a new mission and returned to her roots as a teacher. She had a firm belief that if you teach a child to love and respect animals, they will grow up to be inclined to care for, and not mistreat them. She created a lecture where she took one of her dogs into classrooms to educate and introduce her beliefs to local school children.
She was a member of St Mark’s Episcopal Church in Dalton and also attended the Grandmother’s Group at the Methodist Church in Chatsworth. She maintained her memberships in the Robert Loughridge Chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Magna Charta Dames and Barons, and Delta Kappa Gamma.
Ethel is survived by her two daughters Alicia Rutledge Willis of Richmond Hill, GA, and Lorena Rutledge Cavanaugh of Chattanooga, TN. She has two grandchildren, Virginia Elizabeth Willis and Caison Edward Cavanaugh, and her great-grandson, Finnegan Walter Cano. She also has many nephews and nieces whom she adored.
A celebration of Ethel’s extraordinary life has been postponed until a future date due to the concerns with the rise in COVID cases.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Murray County Humane Society where she gave so much of her time and passion. Their address is –
Murray County Humane Society 12097 Hwy 225N Crandall, GA 30711.
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