A celebration of life for Ruth Ann Heinrichs, 76, who died peacefully amongst her family Aug. 20 at her home in Hesston, will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church
Ruth accepted the Lord as her savior when she was a child and knew her eternal home was in Heaven.
Ruth was born Jan. 9, 1946, in Cordell, Oklahoma. Her parents were Paul Richert, a farmer and rancher, and Hilda Friesen Richert, a teacher.
She graduated from Weatherford High School in Oklahoma and then earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1967, followed by a master’s degree in early childhood education and administration from Fort Hays State University.
Ruth married Dennis Heinrichs in 1967. A year later, Ruth and Dennis moved to Larned.
She was very active in the lives of her sons, Jeff and Greg, and made lifelong memories with picnics in the park, feeding the ducks, helping with 4-H projects at county and state fairs, watching them play sports, listening to their music concerts, and going on annual vacations to the mountains of Colorado.
Always one to place a high value on education, Ruth was incredibly proud when Jeff and Greg each earned advanced degrees after graduating college.
Being Gramma was a role Ruth approached with love and took seriously. She maximized the time she spent with her five grandkids, Casey, Emmah, Aaron, Josie, and Toby, and taught them to read and do math.
Her grandkids knew her favorite multiplication problem of 7x8 because 56, 7, 8. The grandkids also learned valuable life skills such as cooking, sewing, cleaning, playing with a yo-yo, winning card games, and getting dirty while playing hard from Gramma.
She spoiled her grandkids and created special memories for each of them.
She knew each grandkid’s food preferences and went to great lengths to give them all exactly what they wanted, even within the same meal. This often meant having four different kinds of mustard, chocolate chip cookies with and without nuts, and up to seven kinds of ice cream with chocolate syrup, chocolate sprinkles, and “shoom” – Cool Whip to the rest of the world.
Once a new name for something was coined by a grandkid, Ruth used it for life. She was also fond of going to Dairy McQueen for hangaburgers and the grandkids knew there would be extra goo (icing) in a separate bowl served with a family breakfast favorite, bubble loaf.
Ruth took pride in her home and used it as a display of love for her family. Every wall was covered with framed artwork made by Jeff and Greg in grade school and the grandkids.
While Ruth kept her home clean, there was one exception. Ruth considered the handprints and fingerprints of her grandkids on the windows to be valuable reminders of what she loved most. Those stayed on the windows while the rest of the house was cleaned and restocked with the grandkids’ favorite things so she was ready for the next time grandchildren came to visit.
Ruth devoted her professional career to educating students. Her first job was teaching third graders in Hillsboro.
After her first day, she said, “I used up everything I learned in college in the first 20 minutes.”
That day at Suncrest Elementary, as rough as it may have been, was the first of several thousand more days working in schools during her life. Thousands of people who went through the Hillsboro, Larned, and Great Bend school systems are better mathematicians and readers because of Ruth’s work. Many of them, including Greg, also chose a career in education thanks to Ruth.
She taught different grades at Larned’s four elementary schools. Most of her time was spent teaching kindergarten. She was the teacher that Larned’s students wanted to get because she engaged students and made learning fun. She also was sought by parents because they knew their children would be loved and taught by one of the best.
Ruth impacted the lives not just of children. She changed the lives of her colleagues, too. She was proud of being the first female teacher in the Larned school district to wear pants — a violation of the school district’s dress code at the time. Soon after her daring clothing choice, the board of education changed its policy to better accommodate women in the district.
Retirement was a blessing because it allowed Ruth and Dennis more time to travel, a passion they shared even in the final weeks of her life.
They visited Yellowstone, Glacier, Arches, and Grand Canyon National Parks. The family celebrated Ruth and Dennis’s 50th wedding anniversary in Alaska. Ruth also made stops in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, and France.
Ruth is survived by her husband, Dennis; son Jeff, his wife Becky, and their children, Emmah and Aaron, of New Port Richey, Florida; son Greg, his wife Jennea, and their children, Casey, Josie, and Toby, of Hesston; brother Jim and his wife, Lynda, of Clinton, Oklahoma; brother Steve and his wife, Lisa, of Mangum, Oklahoma; sister-in-law Kristin of Denver; and six nieces and nephews and their families.
Ruth was preceded in death by her father, Paul Richert; her mother, Hilda Friesen Richert; her father-in-law, Allen Heinrichs; and her mother-in-law, Kathryn Heinrichs.
The family requests that instead of flowers, donations be made to Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church Youth Camp Scholarship Fund in care of Jost Funeral Home, PO Box 266, Hillsboro KS 67063.
Online condolences at www.jostfuneralhome.com.