Tribute to Ruth Holbrook

Novemeber 4, 1921 to May 12, 2001

by Phil Johnson and Sandy Johnson

Ruth Holbrook was babtized in Salem Square Covenant Church in Worcester, Massachusetts and was a member of Salem all her life. She was an extremely generous person and a wonderful friend to many. Ruth and her husband Ken were Hi-League counselors at Salem in the 60s. The Hi-Leaguers called her Auntie Ruthie and they speak of their love for her and Uncle Ken and the wonderful influences they are in their lives.

Ruth travelled passionately but she loved Cape Cod which she maintained was the best place. The stately Holbrook A-frame in Wellfleet was a place of hospitality and conviviality. The laughter rang out as friends talked, joked, and played games. To be unhappy around Ruth and Ken would be a big challenge.

Ruth was not one for sentimental talk. She disdained tears she sensed were not authentic but she responded with love and generosity to those in need or in pain. She was a person with a tough mind and a tender heart. We hope this poem portrays her spirit and liveliness.

Farewell Dear Ruthie, Or a Limerick in Honor of Ruth Holbrook

There was a fine girl they named Ruth
Who could tell nothing else but the truth
— Her eyes full of twinkles
Her love without wrinkles —
Her heart always brimming with youth.

Along came the day when Ruthie met Ken
And nothing was ever the same after then.
They worked hard together
No matter the weather
And they made life just great for their friends.

Our friend Ruthie was a most plucky lass
Whom no one would ever dare to harass
— She’d pay no attention
Should meanness one mention —
She was loyal and kind—Head of the class.

But if you’re a preacher—best watch the clock
’cuz Ruth wasn’t fond of over long talk.
"There is much more to do
Than to sit in this pew.
God’s out of doors where I need to walk."

If you’d like to know the meaning of generous—
Who can ever match Ruth and also what Ken was?
She would give every day
And then find a new way
She wasn’t just good—she was stupendous!

At this very moment can’t you just see her?
She’s trying to cheer up good old Saint Peter.
He’s now in her range
And he’ll have to change
’cuz you can’t be the same once you meet her.

Her foot was quite heavy when for Cape Cod bound
With Missy or Debbie or Lucky the hound —
She’d cross the Bourne Bridge
Speed along the high ridge —
’twas then that her heart started to pound.

She’d walk in on Ken who would tell her the score
Which caught her attention a moment, no more.
Though the Red Sox were great
She’s now at the Cape
With her Ocean and beaches and sunshine galore.

In came the groceries, there were friends on the way.
No matter the weather she was ready to play.
She’d get the dogs off to bed
’cuz there were books to be read
For Ruthie the Night-Owl, a great part of her day.

As the morning came on, it wasn’t a rush.
Ken had the early watch, no need to fuss.
When the sun rose up higher,
Her spark plugs did fire
And out came the food we’d need to sustain us.

No time to lose, let’s get out to the ocean
Good surf at Newcombe’s? We’re already in motion.
She led us with purpose
Down the dunes to the surface
Where the waves break in happy commotion.

Then back to’ard the bay with a stop at Long Pond.
You’d think that Ruthie had a magic wand!
Buy lobsta in Wellfleet
For tonight’s big treat;
Next a swim in the bay then wash off your feet.

Oh, Ruthie, we’ll miss you, we love you so much
No one can ever replace your sweet touch.
Your joy and your smile
Put the sour on trial
You made us all better by ever so much.

We’re sure you will smile when we say with your name
That you were a tough one whom no one could tame.
Though you were not very tall,
You could strike fear in us all—
You made a lot of us big guys look pretty lame.

Your memory, dear Ruthie, we’ll always relish
All the seeds you have planted will never perish.
We’ll think of you often
Our great loss to soften;
Again we’ll be blessed as your life we cherish.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

See all articles by Phil Johnson

Sandy Johnson, copy-editor emeritus of Pietisten, earned her PhD in Organization and Development at the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis where she attends Bethlehem Covenant Church.

See all articles by Sandy Johnson