Ruth Duskin, ‘Quiz Kid,’ dies

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Joan Gian­grasse Kates Joan Gian­grasse Kates writes for the Chicago Tri­bune.

The for­mer child ra­dio and TV star later wrote a sober­ing book on grow­ing up gifted.

By the time Ruth Duskin Feld­man was 5, she was read­ing her fa­ther’s chem­istry books. Within two years she was writ­ing po­etry.

Her prodi­gious tal­ents soon launched her on a nearly 10-year “ca­reer” on the na­tion­ally syn­di­cated ra­dio pro­gram and sub­se­quent TV show “Quiz Kids,” which ran from 1940 un­til 1953 and gained a wide and steady au­di­ence.

But Feld­man sep­a­rated her­self from her past no­to­ri­ety for decades be­fore even­tu­ally writ­ing the 1982 book “What­ever Hap­pen to the Quiz Kids? Per­ils and Prof­its of Grow­ing Up Gifted,” a sober­ing look at gifted chil­dren as they age.

Feld­man died May 18 in On­tario of heart fail­ure while on a trip to Cal­i­for­nia to visit rel­a­tives, her daugh­ters said. She was 80.

The premise of “Quiz Kids” was to present ques­tions to a panel of gifted chil­dren, cho­sen for their IQs, aca­demic in­ter­ests, poise, quick­ness and sense of hu­mor. For her first few years on the pro­gram, Feld­man didn’t re­al­ize what a big deal it was, think­ing she was only be­ing seen by a small stu­dio au­di­ence — a per­cep­tion her par­ents were happy to per­pet­u­ate, fam­ily mem­bers said.

“Her fa­ther was wary of what be­com­ing a celebrity could do to a child and didn’t want her get­ting what he called a ‘swelled head,’ ” said her daugh­ter Heidi. “But with the over­whelm­ing suc­cess of the pro­gram, she even­tu­ally caught on.”

There were mag­a­zine sto­ries, news­pa­per ar­ti­cles and moun­tains of fan mail. Peo­ple on the street would rec­og­nize her. And then there was the cross-coun­try pro­mo­tional train tour dur­ing World War II, where au­di­ence mem­bers had to buy a war bond to get a ticket. She met celebri­ties such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Judy Gar­land and Chico Marx.

“We were on the train tour to­gether and passed the time play­ing word games,” re­called Richard Wil­liams, a fel­low “Quiz Kid” on the pro­gram with Feld­man. “Ruth was very good with words. Her strength was any­thing in­volv­ing lit­er­a­ture.”

Her book re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion. Feld­man up­dated the book in 2000 and was in the process of re­vis­ing it at the time of her death.

Born Ruth Duskin in Chicago on June 13, 1934, Feld­man pub­lished her first book, “Chemi the Ma­gi­cian,” when she was 13 to help her younger sis­ter with chem­istry. She won a schol­ar­ship to the Chicago Lab School as a teenager and de­cided to wind down her in­volve- ment in “Quiz Kids” be­cause of school. She had ap­peared on more than 150 shows be­fore leav­ing the pro­gram soon af­ter turn­ing 16.

“She wanted a more nor­mal life, be­sides which, she loved be­ing in school,” said her daugh­ter Heidi.

While study­ing at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, she was a pan­elist on three ra­dio pro­grams and TV shows: “Col­lege Quiz Show,” “Su­per Ghost” and “It’s About Time.” Dur­ing her sopho­more year, she was cho­sen in a na­tion­wide search as guest edi­tor for Made­moi­selle’s 1952 col­lege board is­sue.

In 1953, she mar­ried Gil­bert Feld­man; the cou­ple had three chil­dren. When her chil­dren were grown, she be­gan a ca­reer as a writer, edi­tor and lec­turer.

“She was a won­der­ful word­smith,” said long­time col­league Miriam Jer­ris, rabbi of the Michi­gan-based So­ci­ety for Hu­man­is­tic Ju­daism. “When­ever we were brain­storm­ing, she could talk through ideas and make co­he­sive over­all state­ments that brought to­gether our var­ied and dis­parate ideas to make sense of it all.”

Feld­man co-wrote four col­lege text­books on hu­man and child devel­op­ment and was a regular lec­turer at uni­ver­si­ties

“She sim­ply, qui­etly suc­ceeded in ev­ery en­deavor that was in­ter­est­ing and im­por­tant to her,” her daugh­ter Lau­rie said. “Far from el­e­vat­ing her own achieve­ments, she en­abled ev­ery­one around her to find their ar­eas of pas­sion and ful­fill them.”

In ad­di­tion to her daugh­ters, Heidi and Lau­rie, Feld­man is sur­vived by a son, Steven; a sis­ter, Bunny Shuch; and eight grand­chil­dren.

GROW­ING UP GIFTED Ruth Duskin Feld­man with Bob Hope. She and other “Quiz Kid” par­tic­i­pants went on a cross­coun­try train tour to boost war bonds dur­ing World War II. The show ran from 1940 to 1953.

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