I’m feeling a lot like a sponge that’s been left in the water too long…
People are dropping like flies. Important people in my life. Another one succumbed last Wednesday. Joyce Majempsey Ruthe was more than just my friend and mentor. We were family. Family of choice, and I loved her with all my heart.
Asked whether I wanted to write something to be read at the funeral service, I readily agreed. I wanted everyone to remember Joyce for the amazing person she was, for all of her many wonderful qualities, with both tears and laughter. The best way for me to do that was to tell a story…
“Joyce Ruthe was a truly incredible woman, strong, dedicated, devoted, and to all appearances, virtually indestructible. Unfortunately, we are all destructible, and we have lost a true gem with her passing. But I’m not here to conduct a “pity party”, but to tell a little story that illustrates just a few of Joyce’s amazing qualities.
From our first meeting, we became fast friends; indeed, my little family became a part of her large and loving family. My boys and I spent many holidays at the table together, sharing delicious meals and good conversation. Over the years, Joyce and I indulged our shared passions for beads and beading, quilts, and camping, among others. She possessed a great sense of humor and a generally calm demeanor, so well illustrated by one of our camping adventures.
Joyce and I and another close friend had decided to camp out at Starved Rock State Park, one of our favorite destinations. My car had the biggest trunk, so I drove. Leaving after a long day of work, by the time we arrived at the campsite, it had begun to rain and the sun had set. As Joyce opened the tent equipment bag, she uttered an expletive—whoever had last used the tent (it wasn’t us) had forgotten to return the tie downs to the bag! Annoyed, but undaunted, Joyce was ready to start shredding clothing to make rope…
By some peculiar twist of fate, before leaving the house to pick the others up, I noticed a brand new, unused clothesline in the garage. I never used a clothesline and don’t even know where it came from. I threw it in the trunk without a second thought.
Upon discovering that we lacked tie downs, I jumped out in the rain to retrieve the line from the trunk, while Joyce opened up her Swiss Army knife with its teeny tiny scissors. In no time, she had cut up the line and knotted the pieces we needed. By this time, the rain was really coming down. I thought we should wait for it to let up, but Joyce figured it might only get worse, and we’d be camping out in our seats in the car.
In the dark, we pitched our tent. In a testament to her skill at erecting tents in the rain, we never touched the top, and we were dry all night. Once we had finished, we brought our gear inside, where Joyce suggested a little celebration of a job well done. Opening a little picnic basket, she proceeded to break out the booze, not strictly kosher, since state parks prohibit alcohol on the premises. Joyce was not one to split hairs. When questioned about it, she replied, “Well, just don’t tell anyone!”
As Joyce drew her last breath, over the hospital intercom came a lullaby, played each time a new life arrives. She would have loved that.
Devoted friend, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, great-aunt, always there for us, Joyce will always live in our hearts. May her memory be a blessing.”