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Pastor's wife co-founded Guideposts

OBITUARIES | Ruth Stafford Peale, 1906 - 2008

February 08, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ruth Stafford Peale, who with her late husband, Norman Vincent Peale, co-founded the global inspirational organization Guideposts, died Wednesday. She was 101.

She died at her home in Pawling, N.Y., about 70 miles north of New York City, Guideposts spokeswoman Kelly Mangold said.

Norman Vincent Peale, one of the 20th century's foremost preachers and motivational speakers, wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking," a classic bestselling book from 1952 that outlines how people can improve and strengthen their lives through faith. Peale, the longtime pastor of Manhattan's Marble Collegiate Church, part of the Reformed Church in America, died on Christmas Eve 1993.

The couple founded the Guideposts organization in 1945, along with the magazine by that name, which is still a leading publication with an annual readership of about 8 million. At her death, Ruth Stafford Peale was chairman emeritus of Guideposts.

Peale, herself a religious leader, speaker and author, handled publication of her husband's sermons at the Peale Center for Christian Living in Pawling.

She encouraged her husband when his manuscript for "The Power of Positive Thinking" was rejected by publishers, and once pulled it out of the garbage can when he had given up on it. It went on to sell more than 21 million copies.

Her book, "The Adventure of Being a Wife," published in 1971, offered advice for married women based on the Peales' philosophy of positive thinking and finding a spiritual presence in everyday life. "It's best if both spouses study their partner," she wrote, "but I think it's more of a responsibility of the wife to do so. There has to be an understanding of the relationship and the personality."

The book was later republished as "Secrets of Staying in Love."

Loretta Ruth Stafford was born Sept. 10, 1906, in Fonda, Iowa, to a Methodist minister and his wife. She grew up in Iowa and Michigan, then studied math and philosophy at Syracuse University. After receiving a bachelor's degree in 1928, she taught high school mathematics.

She was introduced to her future husband in Syracuse, where he was pastor of University Church.

"He held my hand a fraction of a second longer than is necessary, and I thought to myself, 'Now this is going to be interesting,' " she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1997. "It took two years to persuade me [to marry him]. No way did I want to be a pastor's wife."

The marriage lasted 63 years. After her husband's death, Peale continued the work of the Peale Center for Christian Living, which has a worldwide outreach division. The center's programs include Knit for Kids, which distributes handmade sweaters to children in need.

Guideposts provides hundreds of thousands of free magazines and booklets to hospitals, nursing homes, military organizations and relief agencies.

Next month Guideposts is launching OurPrayer.org, an online prayer community. The Ruth Stafford Peale Prayer Power Network named in her honor already receives about 600,000 prayer requests a year.

She leaves two daughters, Margaret Peale Everett of Sherman, Conn., and Elizabeth Peale Allen of Pawling; a son, John Stafford Peale of Palmyra, Va.; eight grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

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