Dow Chemical Heiress and Noted Hostess
Ruth Elizabeth Hale Buchanan passed away peacefully at her Washington, DC home on Monday, November 18th at nearly 102 years of age. She was born on February 22, 1918 in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Dr. William J. and Helen Dow Hale. When she was nine months old, her mother died from influenza. Her father was a noted scientist and inventor. Mrs. Buchanan’s maternal grandparents were Herbert H. and Grace Anna Dow. Herbert Dow founded the Dow Chemical Company.
In 1935, Mrs. Buchanan graduated from Holton Arms School in Washington, DC and from Connecticut College for Women in 1939. In 1940, she married Wiley T. Buchanan Jr., and they had three children, Bonnie B. Matheson of Washington, DC, Diane Dow (Dede) Wilsey of San Francisco, and Wiley T. Buchanan III (Janis) of Washington, DC.
In 1953, Mrs. Buchanan moved to Luxembourg where Mr. Buchanan was appointed Ambassador. Returning to Washington, she excelled as a gracious hostess when Mr. Buchanan then served as Chief of Protocol under President Eisenhower from 1956 through 1960. During this time, they hosted many heads of state who visited the United States as official guests. A practical woman, she once hailed a motorcycle cop, while late to a White House function, and sat in his side car in her ball gown while he rushed her through thick traffic. Later, while Mr. Buchanan was serving as Ambassador to Austria, Mrs. Buchanan learned German and made many friends. She was also fluent in French and Italian. She was widowed in 1986. Notably her grandson currently holds the same post, possibly the only woman in the history of America to have been the wife and later grandmother of the US Ambassador to the same country.
Mrs. Buchanan entertained extensively at her beautiful home, Underoak, in Washington, DC as well as at Bealieu, her summer home in Newport, Rhode Island. She was a founding member of the Perennial Garden Club of Washington, DC and both her homes featured extensive gardens that her friends and guests loved to admire.
She was a prolific photographer and an early user of super 8 film to document her life. She was also an accomplished painter.
She was a golfer, a lawn bowler and croquet player, even winning multiple championship trophies in Newport. Above all, dancing was her favorite sport, and she never lacked partners.
Mrs. Buchanan loved dogs and had many of them over her lifetime. She especially favored poodles and later dachshunds.
At 80 years of age, she married her childhood sweetheart, Edward K. Wheeler. She was widowed again in 2002.
Mrs. Buchanan was a talented artist and an award-winning flower arranger. Always elegant and beautiful, she was known for her wonderful pastel wardrobe and matching jewelry. Her sparkling blue eyes would always light up a room, and she was never seen without her lipstick.
In addition to her three children, Mrs. Buchanan is survived by seven grandchildren: Helen M. Hilliard (David), Lilla YM Ohrstrom (Chris), Charles T. Matheson Jr. (Andrea), Ambassador Trevor Dow Traina (Alexis), John Todd Buchanan Traina (Katie), Robert Redd Matheson, and John Murdoch Matheson (Susie), and 17 great-grandchildren.
The family expresses its gratitude to Maria Bascon, Mrs. Buchanan’s devoted employee for over 42 years, and to Raechel Gavarra, Janet Jiminez, Amphil Urbiztondo, and Gerlie Whigan, Mrs. Buchanan’s dedicated caregivers, for all the love and comfort they provided to her. The family is also grateful to John Andrews and Emelio Oloya for their wonderful care over the years.
Funeral services will be held at Christ Church Georgetown on Thursday, November 21st at 3pm. Guests are invited to wear colorful clothing in her memory.