BRADENTON -- Big band music was the soundtrack of life for Ruth and Paul Bartley.
They danced to it every chance, especially at home.
"In the living room, the kitchen, wherever, parties or not," granddaughter Beth Raulerson said. "We grandchildren got to know who the artists were -- Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra -- and it was a big part of our lives, too."
Five-plus years after her beloved husband passed, that music provided a tender parting gesture Saturday afternoon for Ruth Herold Bartley at Westminster Manor.
With her mother, Linda McKinney, aunt, Becky Painter, and sister, Susan Raulerson, in the room, Beth Raulerson downloaded Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" on her iPhone and set it on the pillow next to her grandmother's head.
"Her eyes opened up, she smiled and her head nodded to the beat," Raulerson said. "I knew she heard it and knew why we were playing it. She was ready to go. I wanted her to know 'Paw-paw' was going to have the first dance when she got to heaven."
Ruth Bartley passed not long after.
She was 91.
"An incredible lady," McKinney said. "She survived a lot in her lifetime."
Ruth Bartley was a farm girl from Summersville, W.Va., and supervised Bell Telephone's switchboard in Newport News, Va., during World War II.
"She would talk about how that switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree the day the war ended," McKinney said. "The same thing happened when the boys began coming home."
Her future husband was a veteran, too, a city boy from Charleston, W.Va., and they married after a very brief courtship.
"Two weeks," McKinney said, chuckling.
Their marriage endured 63 years.
The couple arrived in Bradenton in 1956 and while Paul Bartley became a community icon as a longtime Bradenton Herald photographer, it was Ruth Bartley who was the family anchor.
"She was the brains behind the operation," Painter said.
"Mom made it possible for Dad to do everything he did in the community," McKinney said. "Her focus was home and family, but she was his support system. She knew he was a character and loved him for it."
Ruth Bartley got involved as well with organizations like Entre Nous, Beta Sigma Phi, the Hernando DeSoto Historical Society and the altar guild at Trinity United Methodist Church.
When her husband opened up a photography studio, Ruth Bartley was involved in it, too.
"All of us worked there at one time or other, but she ran the business end of it," McKinney said. "It was a family affair."
Both loved golf and one of the family's favorite stories is who won the Bradenton Herald's first tournament: Ruth Bartley.
"Not only did she beat Dad, but Dad had to take the picture of Mom being presented with the trophy from (publisher) Gene Page Sr.," McKinney said. "He was known as 'Mr. Ruth Bartley' for a year."
Alas, she was unable to defend her title.
"Dad won it because Mom couldn't participate -- she was pregnant with Becky," McKinney said. "She told him, 'You'll do anything to win a golf tournament.'"
Ruth Bartley, who is also pre-deceased by son, David, survived by two daughters, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Memorial services are at 11 a.m. Sunday at Brown & Sons Funeral Home, 604 43rd St. W., Bradenton.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter:@vinmannix