As a journalist, Ruth McKinnie Braun wrote stories that touched the community. As a mother and civic volunteer, she provided time and energy to help and improve schools. In the process, she became a kind of "Superwoman" role model to friends and colleagues — someone whose calm and practical demeanor seemed to perfectly balance family, career and volunteer work.
After 23 years with the San DiegoTribune and The San Diego Union-Tribune as a reporter and editor, Ms. McKinnie left the paper last fall to launch a Web site designed as a resource for parents, combining her passion for family and education reporting.
Ms. McKinnie died Saturday (09/21/10) at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla after a brief battle with a rare form of sinus cancer. She was 51.
She was a familiar face in the community as a journalist who focused on both the good and the bad. She reveled in finding stories about local organizations and people who were implementing solutions to community problems. She later took the lead in establishing the Union-Tribune's"Just Fix It" column, which takes on community problems that local government agencies have not addressed.
"Ruth held a special place in the newsrooms of this company over many years," said Karin Winner, editor of the Union-Tribune . "She was a terrific, tenacious reporter whose passion for the Fourth Estate and its role in shaping society was palpable. So was her work ethic and sense of fairness.
"In the latter part of her career with us, she dedicated herself to finding ways to help solve problems confronting communities throughout this region. The popular 'Solutions' feature was hers; so was 'Just Fix It.' She left an indelible imprint on so many of us."
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders met Ms. McKinnie about 15 years ago when he was police chief.
"She was working on the Solutions column and highlighting different organizations and the (beneficial) impact they had on the community," Sanders said. "Some people say journalists are only looking for the negative, but that's not true. Ruth was very fair and very positive."
Ms. McKinnie took a lead role when the newspaper started a partnership with Logan Elementary School. She coordinated school-supply drives, volunteered regularly at the school and enlisted colleagues to also give their time at the Logan Heights campus.
She was active at Scripps Ranch schools, where her children attended, and was named a volunteer of the year by the Scripps Ranch Civic Association for her work.
"Ruth has been one of our prized community volunteers," said association president Gordon Boerner.
Friend and former Union-Tribune reporter Kathryn Balint said Ms. McKinnie was a fabulous mother and an amazingly hard worker.
"She was like Superwoman. She could do it all," Balint said. "She was the hardest worker I ever met. She was able to juggle career, family, volunteering. Nothing kept her down."
Balint recounted that Ms. McKinnie's illness affected her eyesight and there was a possibility she might become blind.
"She said if she didn't get her eyesight back, she'd learn Braille and get a radio show," Balint said. "She was always upbeat and never seemed to pity herself."
Ms. McKinnie had survived a bout with breast cancer nearly 20 years ago.
Her career at the Union-Tribune included covering city and county government, the Port District and editing a special series on the Stephanie Crowe case in the aftermath of the 1998 killing of the Escondido girl.
Ms. McKinnie coordinated and did much of the writing of a 1999 special series on foster children. She also was responsible for producing theUnion-Tribune's election voters guide for several years.
"Ruth was someone everybody respected and trusted," said her husband of 19 years, Gerry Braun, a former political reporter and columnist who now works for Sanders as his director of special projects. "She was a great editor and she had a genuineness, an honesty and a great sense of humor. Integrity was the quintessential quality of my wife."
Ruth Louise McKinnie was born Dec. 30, 1957, in Metlakatla, Alaska, to Paul and Dorothy McKinnie. The family moved to California when she was 7 and she grew up in San Mateo. She attended San Diego State University, where she earned bachelor's degrees in political science and journalism.
Ms. McKinnie is survived by her husband, Gerry Braun; their children, Emma and Noah Braun of Scripps Ranch; a brother, Paul "Rex" McKinnie of Foster City; and sisters Jennifer McKinnie Abeyta of San Juan Pueblo, N.M., and Sandra McKinnie Biehl of Mesa, Ariz. She was predeceased by her parents.