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Ruth H. Silman

Harvard resident, attorney, passionate environmental advocate

Ruth Silman. (Courtesy photo)

Ruth H. Silman, 52, of Bolton Road, died peacefully at home on June 30, 2021, after living with cancer for just over two years. She was the wife of Timothy Clark and mother of Phoebe Clark and Jacob Clark. Ruth and Tim married in 1999 and have lived in Harvard since 1998. Ruth was a shining light that dimmed too soon; she ensured the world was better than she found it.

The youngest of three children of Robert and Roberta Silman, Ruth grew up in Ardsley, New York, and Great Barrington, with summers at the North Country Camps in the Adirondacks. A graduate of Cornell University and Boston University Law School, Ruth was a partner at Nixon Peabody, and recently served as the first female managing partner of the Boston office from 2016 to 2019. Ruth loved to hike (she climbed all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks before turning 46), cross-country and telemark skiing, was a gifted baker, and was a devoted, generous, and loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.

A passionate lawyer and environmental advocate at Nixon Peabody, Ruth’s interest in the environment and commitment to social justice propelled her to focus her practice on clean energy, climate change, complex land-use issues, and affordable housing. Ruth was particularly proud of the affordable housing redevelopment of Old Colony in South Boston and the redevelopment of the Ames Shovel Works site in Easton for workforce housing. In addition, Ruth worked to ensure appropriate cleanup of contaminated sites, attain compliance by various manufacturers with the Clean Air Act, as well as secure permits for numerous solar, offshore, and inshore wind farms across the Northeast. Ruth brought her extensive knowledge and talents to help create the first community-owned Solar Garden in Harvard and represented the town in a complex appeal process with Mass Development, advocating for the residents of Harvard affected by industrial development in nearby Devens.

In addition to her law practice, Ruth served as a mentor to many, advocated for issues concerning women lawyers and attorney well-being, and was a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers. She served in leadership positions on the boards of the Cornell Outdoor Education Advisory Board, the North Country Camps Chief’s Fund, the Environmental Business Council of New England, and the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden. Ruth became interested in the Healing Garden initially because it was just around the corner, but quickly was drawn to the integration of eastern and western traditions as well as the healing roles of nature and gardens as alternative therapies. She served as a longtime board member, supporter, and advocate for the Healing Garden, and ultimately also as a client, where she was able to experience loving support from staff and other clients.

In addition to Tim, Phoebe, and Jacob, Ruth leaves her devoted dog, Darwin; her mother, Roberta Silman (Great Barrington); sister, Miriam Silman (Kentucky); brother, Joshua Silman (Heidi Silman, Vermont); brother-in-law David Gardner (Kentucky); her mother-in-law, Esther Clark (Westford); father-in-law, Art Clark (Taos, New Mexico); brother-in-law, Matthew Clark (Alison Macondray, California); and nephews and niece Eli Silman, Graham Silman, and Lily Gardner. She was predeceased by her father, Robert Silman.

Funeral services led by Rabbi Neil Hirsch and Reverend Jill Cowie were held Friday, July 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Burial followed at Bellevue Cemetery. A celebration of life is scheduled for Oct. 23, 2021. Donations in Ruth’s memory may be made to the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden, 145 Bolton Road, Harvard, MA 01451, healinggardensupport.org.

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