Ruth Rodale Spira, co-founder and co-chairwoman of Lutron Electronics, passed away August 31 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was 90 years old.
Spira and her husband, Joel Spira—who died in 2015—started Lutron together in their Manhattan apartment in the late 1950s. At the time, the pair transformed their spare bedroom on the Upper West Side into a lab of sorts with the intention of developing the first dimmer light switch, which Joel Spira, a physicist by training, invented shorty thereafter.
Ultimately, Ruth and Joel Spira settled in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, where they established Lutron Electronics and grew it from a local business into a global leader in lighting and shading with 15,000 products. In the company’s early days, Spira headed quality control. She established Lutron Electronics’ Marketing Communications Department in 1982, drawing on her background as an editor and researcher to develop much of its global marketing materials.
Family and friends recall Spira’s warm personality, noting that she created and upheld Lutron Electronics’ culture of inclusivity from the company’s start, often serving as a mentor to new employees. For decades, Spira participated in numerous community organizations, including the Allentown Art Museum, the Allentown Arts Commission, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and the Lehigh Valley Wellesley College Group. She also served as an active member of Lutron’s Advisory Council.
Spira, who enjoyed travel and exploring new cuisines, is survived by her three daughters—Susan Hakkarainen, Lily Spira Housler, and Juno Spira—and their spouses, as well as grandsons Ari Hakkarainen, Max Hakkarainen, and Baily Malanczuk, her sister, Nina Houghton, and extended family.
Services for Spira will be private. The family requested that memorial donations be given in lieu of flowers to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Donations can be mailed to the following address: 131 Parkinson Avenue, Staten Island, NY, 10305. Online contributions can be made to www.apdaparkinson.org.