Posted 10 months ago
By Ashley Hinker
Ruth Knight died peacefully at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix on January 24, 2013. During the last six months of her life she experienced repeated bouts of pneumonia, with the antibiotics becoming less effective on each subsequent round.
Ruth Knight lived an exemplary life. She always radiated a positive, sunny attitude. She was never inclined to rock the boat or to challenge authority. She was gracious in all circumstances and rarely criticized the motivations or actions of others. She seldom expressed an opinion on controversial issues. She was grateful for her wide circle of friends and would always find time to engage in friendly conversation, lend a helping hand, or offer a cheery word of support. Despite growing physical limitations in her later life, she never complained and was one of the most popular residents at her assisted living facility. She never let her numerous accomplishments go to her head. She maintained a humble attitude and was guided by deep religious convictions. Her activities touched many people. She lived a balanced, rewarding life.
Ruth was born in Omaha on July 28, 1915. Her parents were Martin Sylvester McDuffee and Ida Belle Knoll (McDuffee). She briefly lived in Madison, NE, where her father was a county judge. In 1922 the family moved to Norfolk, NE, living a few houses away from Johnny Carson’s parents. She attended Grant Elementary School and graduated as salutatorian from Norfolk High School. The following fall she matriculated at Grinnell College in Iowa. She loved college life and the expanding horizons it provided. She majored in English and History, graduated in 1937 and was awarded Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board Society honors. (Along the way she met the requirements for a teachers’ certificate.) Her professors encouraged her to go to graduate school. However, it was the midst of the depression and she did not want to be a further financial burden to her parents. Her college years were formative. She developed an interest and love for English and US history and literature. During her quiet times over the remainder of her life, she would study such books. Following graduation from Grinnell, she moved to Wayne, NE, where she taught sophomore high school English, European history, and debate. Her debate team orator won the state championship. Meanwhile the Alliance Superintendant of Schools recruited her to move to Alliance to teach junior English and journalism. She accepted the offer and moved at the end of the school year.
After her first year in Alliance, she married Edward M. Knight, a local banker. Edward had a degree in electrical engineering, but had joined the Alliance National Bank when engineering jobs evaporated during the depression. Ruth became a homemaker and her first son, Robert, was born ten days before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter the family moved to the Cleveland area where Edward served as a section foreman at a factory building B-29 airplanes for the military. A second son, Frank, was born in 1944.
After the war ended, the family returned to Alliance. Ruth became active in many organizations. In the Eastern Star she served as Worthy Matron and went on to be Worthy Grand Matron for Nebraska. She served on the ESTARL Committee which awarded scholarships to individuals wishing to enter the ministry. She was a member of the Alliance Public Library Board for around 25 years. At First Presbyterian Church she was elected an elder, taught the Sunday School class for high school students for 17 years, and served on pastor search committees three times. Additionally, she had terns as president of the Church’s Womens group and the Presbyterial.
She was Regent for Point of Rock DAR chapter; served as president of Chapter AH PEO; and was an organizing member of the Alliance Chapter of AAUW. She was den mother for a cub scout pack for two years and served as a class room-mother at Emerson School several times. She was on the Board of the Alliance National Bank from 1964 until the bank was sold in 1994. Ruth was a founding member of the Knight Museum Foundation and remained on its board until her death. She was a member of several bridge clubs and played duplicate bridge when the group was active in Alliance. She taught a weekly Bible Class at Good Samaritan for several years.
By the early 1980s, Ruth would frequently contract pneumonia during the winter months. Doctors advised her to move to a milder climate at a lower altitude. Ruth and Edward acquired a residence in Sun City, AZ, and for the next few years they wintered in Arizona. After Edward died in 1983, Ruth became increasingly active as an affiliate member at Faith Presbyterian Church in Sun City. She served a term as elder and became the first chairman of the Spiritual Life Committee. For over two years she was responsible for organizing the daily devotions at the church, having to substitute as the leader whenever the speakers failed to show. She also prepared the Advent and Lenten booklets.
Ruth joined the Scots Club of Sun City, a group devoted to studying and promoting their Scottish heritage. Alex Beaton, the dean of Scottish balladeers, performed for her 90th birthday party.
Ruth’s last years were spent in an assisted living facility. Her external activities were considerably reduced, but her eyesight and hearing remained good. She would spend her days reading 700 page histories and visiting with friends in the dining room.
Ruth is survived by her sons, Robert and Frank, and by her granddaughter, Celinda. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Edward, and her grandson, Brian.
Memorials may be given to First Presbyterian Church in Alliance, the Knight Museum, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
Funeral services will be Wednesday, February 20 at 10:00 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church with Rev. Dr. Stephen Roosa officiating. Burial will be in the Alliance Cemetery. Visitation will be Tuesday, Feb. 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Bates-Gould Funeral Home.
Online condolences may be left at www.batesgould.com.