Ruth Manchester, 93, a fashion designer and pioneer in the area of junior sportswear and the mother of music star Melissa Manchester, died in Los Angeles on Jan. 21 of complications from two strokes.
Ruth was born in New York on Dec. 31, 1921, the daughter of Max and Jenny Polsky. She was married to David Manchester, a longtime bassoonist for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, who played in an armed forces band during World War II. He died in 1993. Her husband was her high school sweetheart at Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx.
Ruth Manchester worked for a variety of businesses, including Rain or Shine, Land ‘n’ Sea and Marlene Industries, before starting her own line, Ruth Manchester Ltd., in the mid-Sixties. According to one of her daughters, Claudia Cagan, hers was one of the first clothing manufacturing companies in the city owned and operated by a woman. Its offices were at 1407 Broadway, while its manufacturing facilities were at the Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, specializing in pieces made in Enkalure nylon.
In 1978, Ruth and David Manchester relocated to Los Angeles, where their children, Claudia — a television producer — and Melissa, were based. With Claudia and a family friend, Ruth founded the firm Kingsbridge Road. Later, she opened a promotional merchandising company, On Time Promotions, which produced merchandise for the likes of Barry Manilow.
“Mom’s motto was, ‘You must be having a good time,’” Claudia said. “Our other family motto is, ‘Never boring.’” When she was growing up in the Bronx, Claudia noted, “We did things that none of our neighbors did.” Her mother, she added, loved theater, opera, fashion and style. Until she entered a nursing home several years ago, she was always impeccably groomed and made up whenever she went out. Her protégés in the business in New York included Shelli Segal of Laundry, Frank Composto and pioneering model agent Bethann Hardison. Hardison worked in her showroom.
She is survived by her daughters, sister Sylvia Courtney, her son-in-law Steven Cagan and grandchildren Emily, Amanda, Nathan and Hannah.
Funeral services were held in Los Angeles. Donations can be made in Manchester’s name to God’s Love We Deliver and the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.