Ruth N. Erickson passed peacefully on February 6, 2013 at age 93 in Mercer Island, Washington. Ruth will be laid to rest in a family ceremony at Floral Hills Cemetery in Lynnwood on February 23. A memorial service will be held at 2pm February 23 at Covenant Shores, 9107 Fortuna Drive, Mercer Island. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor Ruth's memory with a gift may direct their contribution to: Covenant Shores Benevolence Fund (in memory of Ruth Erickson), 9150 Fortuna Drive Mercer Island WA 98040.
Ruth was preceded in death by her husband of 61 years, Roy Erickson, her son Craig, and her granddaughter Gabriella. She is survived by her sons Gene, Mark, Bruce and her daughter, Joyce as well as nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.
Ruth Nellie Cheramy Erickson was born on May 4, 1919 in her parents' farmhouse in Phillips County, west of Holyoke, Colorado. Ruth's father, Joseph Dennis Cheramy, was a farmer. Her mother, Emma Jane Anderson, was a schoolteacher who died in 1922 from influenza, leaving Joe Cheramy with their three small children to raise: Darrell, age 8; Ruth, age 2; and Lowell, 9 months.
After Ruth's mother died, the children's grandmother, Nellie Anderson, traveled by train from Salem, Oregon, and helped the young family for the next few years. When Ruth was 4, her father sold the farm and moved the family to Salem, but within two years he returned with the children to Colorado, and Grandma Nellie remained in Oregon. Ruth's older brother Darrell lived only to the age of 12, when he died of diabetes. His death profoundly affected Ruth, and also their family dog, who howled outside for hours the night Darrell died. Ruth's younger brother Lowell served in WWII, raised a family in California, and died in 1993.
As a girl, Ruth loved school and excelled at it, but life in sparsely populated Phillips County meant that she had to board with families in town to attend classes, and come home to the farm on weekends. When Ruth was in the 8th grade, she won the Phillips County spelling contest, and got to represent the county at the statewide championship. She didn't win the state title, but she remained a good speller all her life. For 12th grade, she transferred to Haxtun High School, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class of 35 students. It was in Haxtun that Ruth began her lifelong friendship with Phyllis (Anderson) Atkins.
Although money was tight, Ruth managed to enroll for two years at Colorado State College of Education (now called the University of Northern Colorado). She roomed with her friend Phyl, got a typing job that paid 33-1/3 cents per hour, and started attending the Covenant church in Greeley, where she met Roy Erickson. Ruth and Roy dated for awhile and then began a romance by correspondence: in 1938 Roy moved to Los Angeles to work for his aunt Sherry, and in 1939 he enrolled at North Park College & Theological Seminary in Chicago. Ruth was his "girl back home" in Greeley.
In 1942, Ruth decided to enroll at North Park College also, so she could study Christian education and be near to Roy, who was now in his third year at the seminary. Ruth graduated in 1943, and she and Roy were married on August 22, 1943. They honeymooned in Estes Park, learning upon arrival that the hotel at which they had reserved a room was full of U.S. troops.
Ruth's 61 years of marriage to Roy, a minister, meant a lifetime of moving around the country, something Ruth had no qualms about doing. Roy's first assignment was to serve the Covenant church in Rockford, Illinois, and he and Ruth subsequently served churches in Topeka, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle (First Covenant Church, 1965-75), New Jersey, and central California. After Roy had served the Turlock church for three years (1979-82), he began working for short stints as an interim pastor at six other Covenant churches in central California. Altogether, Ruth and Roy lived in Turlock for 22 years. The two of them enjoyed meeting new people at each of the seven area churches they served.
Ruth and Roy had five children: Gene, Craig, Mark, Joyce, and Bruce. Both parents took pleasure in child-rearing and understood the importance of setting good examples for their children. Ruth's father-in-law Gust Erickson helped in this capacity, too: he lived with the family for 2-1/2 years in Topeka, and visited often during the family's "Chicago" years, when he lived at Covenant Home in north Chicago. But it was Ruth who kept the family operation ticking along smoothly: home-cooked meals, shopping, laundry, cleaning, everyone scrubbed and ready for church, and everyone fed, bug-sprayed, and sunscreened on the family's many camping trips. Throughout her full-time career as a wife and mother, Ruth also held part-time office jobs, and enthusiastically involved herself in church activities.
As Ruth's children grew up and moved to new places for their schooling and jobs, she and Roy found countless ways to help out and stay in touch. To give just one example: when Ruth and Roy moved from Seattle to New Jersey in 1975, they drove their moving truck to Chicago to drop off Bruce and all his possessions for college. While in Chicago, they picked up Joyce and delivered her and her possessions to school in Connecticut, all in the course of moving their own entire household. This cross-country trip sadly coincided with the death of Grampa Gust, who was buried in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Ruth had many constants throughout her adult life: her devout faith in God and love for the Covenant church, her loving and harmonious 61-year marriage to Roy, a continuous rich friendship with Phyl back "home" in Haxtun, the love and pride she felt for her growing family, and her easy way of finding things to appreciate in each new life experience. And shouldn't we mention baseball? Ruth cheered for the White Sox from her ironing board in Chicago, avidly followed the Atlanta Braves for over 30 years, and late in life adopted the Seattle Mariners, while still following the Braves. Ruth's baseball notebook was well studied and fully annotated.
In the late 1990s, Roy began experiencing loss of memory and hearing, and as his dementia progressed, Ruth and Roy's life in Turlock began to shrink. Eventually Ruth began suffering from angina, which caused their living situation to advance from difficult to untenable. In 2001, the Erickson family made the sad decision to institutionalize Roy. Bruce was able to get Roy admitted to the memory support unit of the retirement community that employed Bruce in Atlanta, and Ruth underwent a quadruple bypass operation in Atlanta, recovering for several weeks at Bruce and Betsy's house, visiting Roy daily during that time. Ruth's other children later helped her to fix up, empty, and sell the Turlock house, with much-appreciated additional help from Ruth's friends Luke and Elvira Englund and members of the Palmberg family, who kindly drove Ruth's moving truck from Turlock to Seattle.
Ruth moved to Covenant Shores (Mercer Island, Washington) in December 2001. For a full year, until the Covenant Shores Reflections facility could be built, Roy lived in an assisted living facility in the nearby suburb of Redmond. Ruth had by now quit driving, but was able to visit Roy three days each week thanks to faithful transportation help from Gene and his wife Jeanette, Joyce, and two generous friends at Covenant Shores: Guy and Carol Mateer.
Ruth enjoyed living at Covenant Shores, especially after Roy was able to move to the newly-built Reflections unit there in 2002. Ruth could visit him daily, walk the lovely campus, and enjoy seeing friends and her Seattle-area family members. Ruth continued to love travel, and while at Covenant Shores she took several enjoyable trips to Haxtun, Greeley, Denver, Alaska, Dallas, Atlanta, Charleston, Turlock, and Illinois.
In December 2007, Ruth suffered a compression fracture in her back, and moved to the Covenant Shores Health Center. Although her horizons narrowed, she received excellent care from the staff, and she continued to enjoy her companionship with friends old and new. Campus walks now became campus wheelchair-rides with her Seattle-area children and their spouses, who shared her enthusiasm for the beautiful grounds.
On February 1, 2013, Ruth's health declined markedly. Her family members were able to spend time with her in her final days, and the staff continued to watch over her, keeping her comfortable. She died on February 6, 2013.
Ruth's family is grateful to God for the life she led, and we join Ruth's caregivers, other relatives, and her many friends and admirers in celebrating her life.