During World War II, there was a shortage of high school physical education teachers in South Jersey, Richard Amber recalled.

His future wife, Ruth Martino, had just graduated from Glassboro State Teachers College, with elementary school classrooms in mind.

"But a coach in Glassboro said, 'There's an opening up there,' as a physical education teacher at what is now Rancocas Valley Regional High School, 'and you better get that job.' "

She did. And so are careers begun.

Ruth Martino Amber, 91, of Mount Holly, who eventually was an elementary schoolteacher in Beverly for 21 years, died on Friday, March 13, at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly.

On Sundays, Mrs. Amber was the pianist for more than 30 years at Community Gospel Chapel in Voorhees.

"She was one of the most faithful individuals you would ever know," said Abby Fray, a chapel member who is corporate development director for a not-for-profit firm.

"She sent birthday cards not only to her immediate family but to all those in her church family, never missing one.

"She taught each one of my three children in Sunday school," Fray said, "and showed her love by sending notes of encouragement, in addition to the birthday cards."

Born in Audubon, Mrs. Amber graduated from Audubon High School, earned a bachelor's at Glassboro and, after marrying in 1947, a master's in physical education and health at the University of Pennsylvania in 1948.

A field hockey and softball player in college, Mrs. Amber was a physical education and health teacher at Rancocas Valley from 1944 to 1949, her husband said.

"She was the only girls' gym teacher," he said, because "the high school was a little small back then."

Mrs. Amber left teaching to raise three daughters, he said, and returned to teach fifth grade at Beverly Elementary School for 21 years, retiring in 1989.

"She went back to teaching to get the girls through college," he said.

In the 1970s, she taught a Bible class for those recovering from addictions at the Post House, a county rehab site in Pemberton Township.

Richard Amber, pastor at Jobstown Community Bible Church, said that until health problems intervened four years ago, his wife spent summers at girls' camps at the Greenwood Hills Bible Conference in Fayetteville, Pa., where, among other efforts, she taught archery.

"Pianists are hard to get," he said, and so at his services Mr. Amber played recordings of three hymns each Sunday that his wife had prepared at her church. Both are independent gospel churches, he said, and share similar outlooks.

She was a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame selection committee at Rancocas Valley for 25 years.

Besides her husband, she is survived by daughters Judy Harvey, Beth Hoffman, and Susan Pfaff, three brothers and two sisters, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

A viewing was set from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, at Perinchief Chapels, 438 High St., Mount Holly, with a funeral service at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Community Gospel Chapel, 20 Bergen Ave., Voorhees, with interment in Locustwood Memorial Park, Cherry Hill.

Donations may be sent to Community Gospel Chapel, 20 Bergen Ave. Voorhees, N.J. 08043.

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.perinchief.com.

wnaedele@phillynews.com

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