December 13, 2019

In Celebration Of A Life:   Obituary for Ruth Ann Brown Coxe           

Ruth Anne Brown Coxe, widow of Samuel Hanson Coxe, died Wednesday March 11, 2015 of natural causes.  She was 85 and lived at the family’s homestead of an 18th century home, The Captain Thomas Sill House in Old Lyme, Conn.

An early pioneer of ‘Farm to Table,’ Ruth Coxe was an advocate for healthy, local natural foods free of commercially convenient chemistry with unknown health consequences.

Ruth Brown grew up in a prominent family in Mansfield, Conn.  Her father Frank Ignatius Brown ran the Spring Brook Ice Manufacturing, supplying all of Eastern Connecticut.  As a young girl she loved to romp on her own in nature and enjoyed fishing.  She attended Briarcliff Junior College and continued her education to Washington DC and enrolled in the May Boult Interior Design School.

Considering an operatic career, she headed to New York City and studied voice, recording on record for a short time while working at ABC Studio. Advice from a family priest discouraged theatre as it was a risky and risqué business, and she left New York City.

An adventurer at heart, Ruth pointed her car west to San Francisco, Calif., and found employment in a real estate firm.  There she met her future husband, Samuel Coxe, Yale Class of 1943 and WWII Pacific Theatre Marine Air Corps. Pilot, then studying Law at the University of San Francisco.

They married in 1959 and began a family.  She opened the Grinnell Grinder sandwich shop in the financial district and she became active in the La Leche League of San Francisco.  However, pulled back by New England roots, they returned to Old Lyme and Samuel Coxe began his practice in Constitutional Law.

Always a pioneering spirit and active in the La Leche League, Ruth pursued her curiosity around the Major Fred Hargesheimer survival in Papua New Guinea, interviewing the Major and learning more about his experience and survival aided by the people of the Island who nursed him back to health with mothers’ milk.

Prompted to investigate further, in 1970 she headed to Papua New Guinea, New Britain Island with her 7-year-old son Sam to study the habits and diet of the indigenous tribes.  She was later joined by her husband, mother-in-law and second son Stanislaus, and her husband began a newspaper on the Island and they remained for a year.

A return to Old Lyme Sill House was followed by her next adventure with the boys to visit Japan, and in 1976 with the children she travels to Dominica Island to study once again the indigenous people and diet.  Her sojourn continues to Mexico, Central America, and Peru, schooling her children while on the odyssey.

Tragedy strikes in 1981 when her husband Samuel Coxe dies unexpectedly and she is threatened to lose her home on Sill Lane.  Confronted by loss and the auction of her land on the horizon, she reaches out to California friend,  Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, for help.  His actions aid her to legally keep her home and remain in the family homestead with her children.

An advocate for the organic movement, Ruth created a recipe for gluten-free, unleavened bread by sprouting wheat and rye berries.  The bread called Sill House Bakery Essene Bread sold in New York City and Cambridgem Mass., at the first Whole Foods Markets, delivered by van from her Old Lyme kitchen. Her entrepreneurial skills and instinct put to use in her own kitchen helped her survive widowhood.  Always referring to her husband in the most loving and devoted way.



  1. The light still shines on that second floor Sam.

  2. Jonathan Wilder says

    Old Lyme has lost a true icon.No one can possibly replace her.I vividly remember her runs for political office in town.One time passing by my house in a horse-drawn buggy waving to people in their yards staring in bemused awe, and another time Ruth standing outside the polling station with a mule which had a sign draped over it;something about phonics.The mule received more votes than she.Amazing stuff.

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