Ruth Hunsaker Stiles, a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, died in her sleep on Sept. 13 after a long battle with emphysema. She was 81.
She was known as Randy. She gained a reputation in the television broadcast world for her work in public affairs programming, with a deep commitment to the principle that airwaves belong to the public and that commercial stations must carry out the 1934 mandate to serve the public. As community services coordinator at WNBC TV, she wrote and produced public service announcements. In the early 1980s, she was one of the first people in television to recognize the cultural significance of rap music, which she used on the air as a backdrop for a national antidrug campaign, which later won her an Emmy Award. She was appointed a commissioner of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority by Governor Brendan Byrne and continued to serve under Governor Thomas Kean.
Stiles graduated from Smith College, and as a young woman became the assistant director of the Henry Street Playhouse in New York City. Throughout her life, Stiles was active in local, state and national politics. Among many causes she took up in Greenwich Village, she protested overcrowding at P.S. 41 in the 1950s, and later in life lamented that the same problem continues throughout the school system.
In the 1960s she moved to Summit, N.J., with her family where she was an editor at the Independent Press and Scene Magazine; she also wrote for the Newark Star Ledger and Glamour Magazine. For the last 24 years of her life, she returned to live in Greenwich Village near Washington Square Park. Stiles was married and divorced from Meredith N. Stiles, Jr., a senior partner of the New York law firm Cusack and Stiles. She is survived by four children, Deborah Stiles of St. Louis, Judith Stiles and Jed Stiles of New York and Joshua Stiles of New Jersey. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Julia Stiles, Curtis Stiles, Katherine Stiles, Jane O’Hara and John M. O’Hara.