June 11, 1937 — Aug. 7, 2017
Ruth Janet (Westfall) Wollenbecker, 80, died in Astoria, Oregon, on Aug. 7, 2017. She had resided at St. Anne’s Adult Foster Care Home for the past eight years, receiving complete care for the debilitating disease of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs a person completely of their identity.
Ruth was born June 11, 1937 in Toledo, Ohio. Her parents were Eugene Marion Westfall and Vera Marguerite (Grace) Westfall. She was the youngest of three siblings, Mary and Marjorie (her older sisters) both of whom doted on their baby sister. She was a “Great Depression Era” baby, and the family had fallen on hard times. They didn’t have much, but they had each other. A strong faith, a stout constitution and solace in the church would shape Ruth later in life.
On Oct. 10, 1959 Walt and Ruth were married in Toledo, Ohio, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. They celebrated 56 years of marriage prior to Walt’s death in 2015. Theirs was a marriage of longevity and an unprecedented loyalty, truly best friends to the end.
Ruth attended Notre Dame Academy in Toledo, Ohio, graduating in the top of her class in 1955. Ruth was a studious girl, often seen with her nose in a book. Upon completion of high school, she landed a job at the local phone company, AT&T. When asked smugly, by a fellow male employee, if she was one of the new switchboard operators, she smiled politely replying, “No, I’m a draftsman!” She turned sharply on her heel leaving the rather red-faced young man behind her. The girl who liked to study and read was a force to be reckoned with.
In 1981, Ruth pulled up her hometown roots and headed out to the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children. After a short stint in Smith River, California, and Brookings, Oregon, they settled in Astoria. Ruth pursued her degree in nursing, and in 1984 she graduated from Clatsop Community College as a registered nurse, later finishing her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing.
She worked at Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco, Washington. A jack of all trades, she covered all areas of the hospital as a nurse. She handled situations as they came at her, and she never lacked a voice on what should be done for a patient. She had compassion in geriatrics, joy in pediatrics, and savvy smarts in “teen theatrics,” as she would call it.
Ruth was a devout Catholic who loved St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish. She was a longtime member of St. Dorothy’s Circle, the Altar Society, the Catholic PTA and volunteered for various events such as the rummage sale, holiday potluck dinners and pancake breakfasts. She would lend a hand anywhere, and made her faith and service to others a priority. Ruth always felt at home in the church, and she wanted others to feel the same way. This is how she will be remembered. She has, and will be missed.
She is survived by her son, John W. Wollenbecker, and his wife, Joan M. Wollenbecker; her daughter, Mary J. Richard, and her husband, Brent N. Richard; six grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and a great-grandson. She has several nieces and nephews.
The funeral is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2017, at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church in Astoria. The rosary is at 11 a.m., Mass is at 11:30 a.m., and there is a reception to follow immediately after in the St. Mary, Star of the Sea School Auditorium.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association website at https://act.alz.org/donate