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Voices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not just a justice. She was fun-loving Dayton native’s friend.

Dayton Daily News logo Dayton Daily News 9/29/2020 Burt Saidel
a person standing in front of Ruth Bader Ginsburg et al. posing for the camera: Dayton native Lois Severin (left) in a 2000 photo taken in St. Louis with  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Phil Severin. Ginsburg and Phil Severin attended at Cornell University together. Ginsburg and Lois Severin exchanged many letters after meeting in 2000, Severin's brother, Burt Saidel, say. © Provided by Dayton Daily News Dayton native Lois Severin (left) in a 2000 photo taken in St. Louis with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Phil Severin. Ginsburg and Phil Severin attended at Cornell University together. Ginsburg and Lois Severin exchanged many letters after meeting in 2000, Severin's brother, Burt Saidel, say.

Few of you know my sister, Lois Severin. She was born and raised in Dayton, but now lives in St. Louis and has a life of exuberance and fun.

a person wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Alice and Burt Saidel © Provided by Dayton Daily News Alice and Burt Saidel

To illustrate that, she has run for president of the US twice as “St. Lois of St. Louis.” Both times she got a few votes .

But that is not the story. She met Phil Severin while he was stationed here in the Air Force . They were married for 47 happy and interesting years. That’s Lois' story, happy and interesting.

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When Phil was at Cornell for his undergraduate and MBA degrees, he had many circles of friends. Among them was Ruth Bader. That did not become apparent until Phil was stricken by multiple myeloma, a deadly disease.

He endured incredible treatment for nearly two years and was rewarded by a long remission. During that time, he worked, added many friends, and continued his life. Years passed but the cells returned. Phil took it all in stride.

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Phil had invited Ruth, now Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice of the US Supreme Court, to speak in St. Louis. They reconnected. A scant two years later, Phil was gone. During that time, Ruth kept up a communication, mostly hand-written letters, to Lois. That has continued, very actively, to this day.

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We just were told that Lois, who collects gloves among her many interesting hobbies, was sending them to Ruth. In fact, the letter added to this message came on August 11, 2020.

So many have sent Lois condolences, so appreciated. Below is a message from Nina Totenberg. She wisely noted that Ruth passed during the waning hours of Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

text, letter: Ginsburg and Dayton native Lois Severin exchanged many letters after meeting in 2000, Severin's brother, Burt Saidel, say. The letters from Ginsburg were handwritten until shortly before her death Sept. 18, 2020. This note is dated Aug. 11, 2020. © Provided by Dayton Daily News Ginsburg and Dayton native Lois Severin exchanged many letters after meeting in 2000, Severin's brother, Burt Saidel, say. The letters from Ginsburg were handwritten until shortly before her death Sept. 18, 2020. This note is dated Aug. 11, 2020.

“A Jewish teaching says that those who die just before the Jewish new year are ones God has held back until the last moment because they are needed most and were most righteous. And so it was that RBG died as the sun was setting, marking the beginning of the new year.”

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Everything regarding Ruth speaks for itself. The friendship over the years, the mourning of Phil, the sharing of gloves and for Ruth, the rewriting of a major part of our justice system. A story to remember and accept as true inspiration.

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I can only add for Ruth Bader Ginsberg my own valediction, taken from the Romans of two millennia ago:

For Ruth: Ave Atque vale. Hail and Farewell.

Dr. Burton Saidel, a retired dentist and downtown resident, is a fixture in Dayton’s art scene.

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