Helen Rutter Cruess, Artist & Illustrator
Helen Rutter Cruess was born Oct. 15, 1897 in Philadelphia, the daughter of Bertha Connell Cruess and architect and watercolorist Francis Howse Cruess. By 1904 the family had moved to Brooklyn, and then, a few years later, to Rutherford, New Jersey. She attended Rutherford High School and appeared in its 1913 production of Twelfth Night, staged at the Criterion Theatre.
Miss Cruess graduated from the New York School of Applied Design for Women, where she received two of the school's highest awards. She also studied at the Art Students League of New York in Alexander Stirling Calder's sculpture class where she created some outstanding works, including a statue titled Niiya (see photo below).
In August 1919 Helen Cruess' art was published in The Landmark, the magazine of the English Speaking Union, a New York City-based publication. She was later commissioned to illustrate a book of stories by Hans Christian Andersen. She also illustrated a book which may have been called Highways Old and New.
Niiya was shown Nov. 1939 at the Ridgewood Art Exhibit, Ridgewood, New Jersey, as were two drawings by Francis Cruess: Window in Kenilworth Castle, England and Abandoned.
Photo evidence suggests the Cruess family often visited relatives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where Mrs. Cruess grew up. A photo below shows Helen Cruess at the Williamson area overlook in Lancaster County Central Park.
In the 1940's Miss Cruess worked in New York City with the Staples-Smith store window display department. Later, she joined her father, whose health was failing, in Lancaster, where they lived in a house owned for more than 50 years by Mrs. Cruess's mother's family, the Rutters, at 413 Charlotte Street. No records survive regarding when Bertha Cruess had passed away.
After Francis Cruess died New Year's Eve 1948, Helen Cruess remained in Lancaster. Her father's obituary said that he designed the Lancaster Theological Seminary.
Miss Cruess lived at 329 Pearl Street and worked as an illustrator at Hager's Department Store, West King and Market Streets, until the store outsourced the job around 1957. She died Jan. 2, 1977. Although her father had purchased three plots at Fairview Cemetery, Coatesville, Pennsylvania, he alone is there. Helen Cruess is buried in Mellinger's Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster. Her brief obituary stated that her father designed the Lancaster Theological Seminary.