Small Town, Big Life, Great Friendship

Thursday June 7, 2018 | Filed under:

It’s often little gestures in life that prove the most important.

I recently learned of the passing of Ruth Guthrie Beeker, who lived in my tiny Indiana hometown of St. Louis Crossing. Ruth had a long, full life – she celebrated her 98th birthday – filled with children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. So I’m not pausing here to mourning her passing. Instead, I’m celebrating the more than 60-year friendship she shared with my late mother.

Ruth and my mom had been friends for 20 years or more when mom became pregnant with me – at age 42. Mom didn’t drive and usually that didn’t matter much. She was living alone, but in her small town the combo post office/grocery store was a block away and her Baptist church was a few steps in the other direction.

When it came time for mom to figure out how she was getting to the hospital for my delivery, her friend Ruth volunteered. Ruth and her husband and family lived a couple blocks away, too, and this kind of “help your neighbor” attitude was typical in small Midwestern towns back then.

Ruth and mom remained friends through the years, until mom passed away in 2006.

Over the years, I’d stop in occasionally to see Ruth when I was in town. In 2012, when I was back showing a friend around, Ruth and I shared our last visit. I drove past her home, noticed she was sitting in the yard, and stopped to say hello. A friend snapped the photo above, commemorating me thanking Ruth for chauffeuring us to the hospital for my grand entrance into the world 50 years before. She was happy to see me, asked about life on the East Coast, and her daughters told me later that she enjoyed my visit.

If you get a chance, read Ruth’s obit. It’s a snapshot of a small farming town, where Ruth raised six children, took in ironing, cleaned houses, worked in a canning factory and, if that wasn’t enough, was a strawberry field boss. (I picked strawberries one summer but wasn’t invited back. “You eat more than you pick!”) On the farm she worked with her husband of 51 years – “the man of her dreams” – they raised chickens and had cows.

I love and value my own friends, as mom did, and know there are always people I can count on to drive me to the hospital, join in a fun vacation, or just have dinner and talk about the week behind and the week ahead. I hope that in 10, 20 or even 40 years from now – when I’m approaching my own 100th birthday – we’ll still be friends, still celebrating each other and remembering the little things we’ve done in life that are so important.

Rest in peace, Ruth. And thanks again!