Ruth Walker WILLARD (11/30/1911 - 04/16/2014)

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WILLARD, Ruth Walker Our dear sweet mother Ruth Walker Willard went to be with her LORD and Savior Jesus on April 16. Born in 1911 in Spokane, she was 102 years old. She attended Logan Elementary School and North Central High School. (When her daughters took her to west Spokane to visit her childhood home, she marvelled that the streets were paved!! "No more dirt!" How things have changed!!) She remembered legendary teacher Elsa Pinkham fondly. A tough competitor, Ruth Walker was an athlete as a young woman, running hurdles, playing tennis competitively, and swimming. She graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Physical Education. She was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She married husband Frank "Swede" Willard, a Tacoma native who she met at WSU, in 1934. (He graduated from Pacific Lutheran University.) The night they were married, Frank drove her to Mt. Rainier National Park where he was a mountain guide-he had to work putting up ladders and chopping steps to the top of the mountain the next day! Together they climbed Rainier in 1934. (Two women made it to the top that year....Ruth was one of them.) Ruth and Frank eventually went to live in Tieton, WA where he taught school and coached basketball. They then moved to the sometimes wild yet close knit little logging town of Shelton near Olympia where they both taught in the schools and they had many adventures during their long lives there. (Frank, who coached baseball, basketball and football teams in Shelton, passed away in 1995.) Ruth lived in Shelton for over 70 years. Ruth and Frank loved trailering with their daughters, traveling all over the western U.S., Canada and Mexico. They also vacationed in Hawaii and Australia. Ruth enjoyed her trips with friends to Alaska, the Carribean and Europe. Ruth was advisor for Scarlet "S" and G.A.A. Clubs, and coached various girls' tennis teams at Shelton High School, and in 1968 her girls won the district Girls Tennis Championship. Ruth was a member of GQ PEO chapter in Shelton, and in Spokane a member of the Ponderosa Republican Women's' Club and Spokane College Women's Association. She had many friends younger than her!! (She shared a passion for crocheting with Jacob's wife Natasha.) Ruth was a loving, loyal, generous friend, wife and mother to her two daughters, Cindy Willard Zapotocky (husband John-Spokane) and State Senator Betsy Willard Close (Chris-Oregon). She is also survived by her grandchildren who she loved dearly: Jacob Close (wife Natasha and Ruth's new great grand daughter Gwenith Ruth); Abi Jablonski (Ben), Josiah Close (Sara); and Matthew; and Alan, Brian, Chris and Daniel Zapotocky. A Memorial Luncheon celebrating Ruth's long life will be held in Shelton in June. A second Memorial Luncheon will be held in Spokane on July 19. Email Cindy for more information at or phone 509-534-5707. Ruth's family notes that Ruth was a Shelton Garden Club member who worked tirelessly with other awesome women to beautify Shelton. She was a skilled gardener, and loved flowers and trees, and they request that you plant a tree or a rose bush in your own yard, or in the yard of someone you love this summer in her memory.

Published in Spokesman-Review on June 8, 2014
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