Rose Garden PhotographsMary (Ward) Ruffner was born on June 13, 1888, in Benton, Illinois, the daughter of Lulu B. Ward. She was raised by her widowed mother and a maiden aunt. She had two siblings, Helen and John.

"She claimed to have been an indifferent student," her son Lester “Budge” Ruffner wrote in a birthday tribute to her in 1933, "yet in the world of music she possessed a talent far above average. . . It demanded that her family, mother, aunts, uncles and cousins pool funds for her advanced training."

Mary graduated from the Chicago Conservatory of Music and came to Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, in 1910. She became the first public school music teacher in the area.  In June 1912, she married Lester Lee Ruffner and became the mother of Lester "Budge" Ruffner and Mary Lou Griffith.

An accomplished musician, Mary directed community sings for thirteen years and played the organ in several different churches, although she was not a member of a specific church.  She was a guest artist on radio station KTAR in Phoenix and served as accompanist for the Atwater Kent operatic auditions.  She performed many times at the Elks Opera House, which was unusual for a woman during the early twentieth century.  In addition, she arranged music, directed plays and played the piano, accompanying other performers.

She was a long-time member of the Golden Rule Chapter No. 1, Order of the Eastern Star. She worked with others to found the Community Concerts Association which brought excellent performers to Prescott. 

Budge remembered that "she loved to gamble, the bigger the odds the better. She was probably the worst driver in the history of Prescott. Indifferent toward alcohol, she was addicted to coffee and cigarettes.  On more than one occasion, at two or three in the morning, the mellow notes of 'Claire de Lune' would float through the halls of our home."

Mary died in October 1953 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Prescott, Arizona. At the time of her death, she had lived in Prescott for 43 years.

Donor: Elva Breckenridge
Photo Located: RGC MS-39, Box R, F-Ruffner, Mary (Ward)
Updated: 08/12/2015, N. Freer