Ruth Katherine Heckenkamp, 89, formerly of 2310 Spring St., Quincy, died at 3:50 p.m. Sunday (June 29, 2014) in North Adams Home, Mendon, under the most loving care of their staff and her daughter, Betsi, and grandson, Travis.
She was born March 23, 1925, in Durham, Mo., a daughter of Ida Schroeder Phillips. She married Lawrence P. Heckenkamp on May 21, 1949, in Springfield. He died in 1988, after 39 years of marriage.
Ruth survived the Great Depression as a child and graduated from Quincy Senior High School in 1943. She then attended secretarial school. She worked her entire life while raising a family, one of the original Superwomen. During her marriage, she worked at Motorola, for Adams County Civil Defense, and Coca-Cola. She retired after 20 years as a secretary at the State of Illinois Department of Rehabilitation.
Ruth was never one "to toot her own horn" but we will. She was always one to back the underdog. She was ahead of her time, supporting equal rights for minorities, mainly women. She was a patron to QUANADA and generously financed many wells in third world countries through Marion Medical Missions.
She was a founding member of Court Appointed Special Advocates in Quincy and was honored for her volunteer services both representing children and as a member of their board as Statewide Volunteer of the Year. She was an advocate on behalf of children in the Juvenile Court system. Ruth also believed in fair play in the workplace and led a successful unionization of her office for AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). She was a long-time driver for Meals on Wheels and in 2009 was inducted into the Hall of Fame for RSVP for 20 years and 2,000 hours of service.
Ruth was a lifelong learner. She returned to school later in life and graduated in the first graduating class from John Wood with her AA, where she was a long-time member of the Round Table discussion group. When she was 50, she earned her BA from Western Illinois University in 1982. In the later 1960s, she taught herself to transcribe Braille, although she knew no one blind, and typed one Bible a year so that the blind could read the word of God. After doing this for 25 years, she learned how to sign (again not knowing anyone personally who was deaf). She then signed at different churches in Quincy so that the deaf could hear the word of God. She lived her life as a member of the Lutheran faith. Her faith was a major priority in her life.
After her retirement, Ruth traveled much of the world, often with her sister, Sarah Jane, and their close friend, Ann Viar. A few of her destinations included Holland (brought back tulips), Alaska (stood on a glacier and watched the whales mate), Germany (learned more of her heritage), the Galapagos Islands (saw some really strange creatures), Switzerland (saw the Matterhorn), Egypt (rode camels) and virtually everywhere in the United States.
Ruth was a dedicated member of numerous civic, social and community groups including the Rocky Point Club, the Mississippi Paddle Wheelers, MENSA, the Adams County Home Extension Club and the Solo Club. She was actively involved in the Democratic Women's League, ran for local office, and was a longtime election judge. She was a long-term member, conductor and pianist for the Volunteer Voices. The Outdoor Club (through the YWCA/YMCA) enabled her and her sister to take family camping trips with a carload of kids all over the United States.
Ruth loved dogs (especially Killer and Zena, who gave her much companionship and joy in her later years) and hated vegetables. She led a very full life and is now with the Lord. Her epitaph reads as her life was lived, "I am but a stranger here, Heaven is my home."
She is survived by her three children, Douglas Heckenkamp (Sylvia) of Onondaga, Mich., Mary Bondarewico (Paul Wayne) of Jackson, Mich., and Betsi Heckenkamp of Marcelline; three grandchildren, Elizabeth and Andrew Bondarewico of Jackson and Travis Smith of Marcelline; a cousin, Florence Lavery; and numerous nieces and nephews who were good to her and greatly loved.
In addition to her husband, Larry, Ruth was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, John E. Phillips, and his wife, Norma; a sister, Sarah Jane Maynard; and a cousin, Dorothy Lavery.
SERVICES: 11 a.m. Thursday, July 3, in the Zehender Robinson Stormer Cookson Funeral Home with Pastor Tim Woodard conducting. Burial will be in Greenmount Cemetery.
VISITATION: 10 a.m. until time of services Thursday in the funeral home.
MEMORIALS: Ruth believed that flowers were wasted on the deceased. In lieu of flowers, Marion Medical Missions (a ministry that builds shallow wells for clean water in Africa) and Homeward Bound Waggin Inc. (an animal rescue and transport organization).
ARRANGEMENTS: Zehender Robinson Stormer Cookson Funeral Home.