Ruth Peck Savino

Ruth Peck Savino 

WESTERLO — Ruth Peck Savino was a committed caretaker, devout Disney fan, and culinary maestro. After a long battle with stage 4 breast cancer, she died on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. She was 63.

Her older sister by 11 years, Betty Peck Filkins, recalled that Mrs. Savino — in addition to being a “tough woman,” evidenced by a brush with death when she was 3 and suffered what Mrs. Filkins speculated may have been sepsis — was rather chatty from the jump. 

“When she started school,” Mrs. Filkins said, “Mrs. Cornell, who was the kindergarten teacher, came to our house … and she said to my mother, ‘I’m very worried about Ruth.’”

The reason was that “Ruth doesn’t talk all day,” according to the teacher, to which the girls’ mother replied, somewhat bewildered, “Are you talking about Ruth Peck? Her mouth doesn’t stop until she goes to bed!”

Mrs. Filkins said it was Mrs. Savino who informed the family of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, when she was about to turn 6. 

“I had skipped school to go hunting with my dad,” Mrs. Filkins said. “It was the first day of deer season. Ruth came home from school and she told us, ‘President Kennedy is dead.’ My father said, ‘Never say that again. That’s not true. Don’t talk like that.’ He yelled at her, but we turned on the TV and it was like, oh my god.”

Mrs. Savino graduated from Berne-Knox-Westerlo School, and later attended the Westchester School for Medical and Dental Assistants. In addition to spending time as a receptionist, retail clerk, and teacher’s aid, Mrs. Savino worked as a veterinarian assistant for Dr. Harry Prussner, in Medusa, demonstrating a love for animals and caretaking that she carried through her life.

“She would bring animals home with her that people had brought in,” Mrs. Filkins said. “She had a cat that had its leg removed because it had an infection in its foot. And the [owner] said, ‘I don’t want that cat; put it down.’ Ruth brought it home.”

Mrs. Savino named the cat Eilieen — as in “I lean” — on account of the cat being a bit uneven without its fourth leg. 

Once, when Mrs. Savino was around 12, she went hunting with her dad and came back with a rabbit — not to eat, but to nurse back to health after her father shot it.

“My father said, ‘She will never go hunting with me again,’” Mrs. Filkins laughed. “She rescued so many animals, it was unbelievable.” 

Along with her skill with animals, Mrs. Savino had a seemingly unnatural aptitude for cooking, with which she won over her future husband, Stephen “Poppy” Savino.

Mr. Savino, as Mrs. Filkins explained, is originally from Yonkers but had a family camp near the Peck home. One day, while Mrs. Savino was walking down the road, she came across Mr. Savino and his friend and became acquainted.

“The next week, he asked her out on a date and took her to an Italian restaurant in Albany,” Mrs. Filkins said. Mr. Savino ordered a dish Mrs. Savino had never had before and he liked it enough that she — with no Internet at the time, Mrs. Filkins stressed — made it for him the next weekend, when he was back upstate. 

“He said, ‘Where did you get this recipe from?’” Mrs. Filkins recalled. “She said, ‘From tasting it.’ He said, ‘This is the girl I’m going to marry.’”

Like the other Peck siblings, Mrs. Savino and her husband inherited a portion of the Peck family farm, which was divided so each sibling could have their own residence. The Savinos had two children, bringing Mrs. Savino closer to what her family wrote in a tribute was “her favorite job of all” — being a stay-at-home mom (and later “Me-ma,” as she was known to her grandkids). 

Mrs. Savino was heavily involved in the local community, competing in cooking contests at the Altamont Fair (winning first-place blue ribbons with some regularity, Mrs. Filkins said) and volunteering for the Westerlo Fire Auxiliary. She was also a member of the Westerlo Reformed Church, Westerlo Rural Cemetery committee, and Hilltown Senior Citizens group. 

She suffered from breast cancer for eight years, fighting not just for her health but to stay on top of mounting medical costs. Treatments, at one point, cost $27,000 a month, said Mrs. Filkins, who had been a particular ally of Mrs. Savino’s through it all. 

In turn, the family held fundraisers to help bridge the gap between what insurance would pay and the total cost of treatment. It wasn’t until many fundraisers were held that the family learned that breast cancer patients (along with cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer patients) are eligible to have all their costs covered through Medicaid, as long as they meet certain conditions.

Still, their fundraising savvy came in handy when they raised $14,000 for a trip to Disneyworld for Mrs. Savino and many of her relatives, fulfilling what, for her, was a final wish. The family stayed at the resort’s Treehouse Villas for seven nights, spending each of the eight days exploring the massive park — along with some other novel experiences.

“We didn’t have a car, so if we went out and got groceries, we took an Uber,” Mrs. Filkins said. “We’d never used that before because we live in the middle of nowhere, so it was kind of a fun experience all the way around.”

Mrs. Filkins said that her sister was loved deeply by the community where she lived, attested to not just by the donations she received while she was sick, but the acknowledgements she’s received since her death. 

“Everybody loved Ruthie,” Mrs. Filkins said. “Everybody. She was just a kind and gentle person.” 

****

Ruth Peck Savino is survived by her husband, Stephen “Poppy” Savino; her son,, Stephen “TJ” Savino and Stephen’s wife, Ashley; her daughter, Nicole Spinnato and Nicole’s husband, Sal; her grandchildren, Stephen, Anthony, and Cayden Savino, and Gianna and Salvatore Spinnatto.

She’s also survived by her sister Betty Filkins, and Betty’s husband, Richard; her sister Margaret Zibura, and Margaret’s husband, Frank; her brother, Steven Peck; and her mother-in-law, Anna “Nina” Savino and brother-in-law, Vito Savino.

Her mother, Blanche “Peggy” Freleigh Peck; her father, Charles H. Peck, Jr.; and her brother Charles “Skipper” Peck III all died before her. 

The family extends special thanks to Dr. Rufus Collea, Andrea Breen, and Chris Allen. 

Calling hours will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the A.J. Cunningham Funeral Home, 4898 State Route 81, Greenville, followed by a funeral service at 1 p.m. Burial will be in the Westerlo Rural Cemetery. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the Westerlo Reformed Church, Post Office Box 70, Westerlo, NY 12193. 

Memorial messages can be posted at altamontenterprise.com/milestones.

— Noah Zweifel

 

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