Ruth Marie (Hueftle) Lowenthal was born in the Wichita Wesley Hospital on April 17, 1923, daughter of Albert Frederick Hueftle and B. Magdalene “Lena” (Ebel) Hueftle of Severy, Kansas, where Mr. Hueftle was Principal of the high school. Ruth was the oldest of five children. She died noontime on August 14, 2020, at Pioneer Ridge Health (Lawrence, Kansas) of old age pushed over the edge by the Covid-19 virus. She was 97 and Zoomed regularly with her family during the lockdown imposed to help contain the virus.
During those 97 years, Ruth pursued her education, married her sweetheart, lovingly raised her family, excelled professionally, faithfully served through church and civic involvement, and thrived during a long retirement. At intervals throughout her life, she would reflect on her experiences in a compilation she titled, “Snippets” (which serve as the source for quotes included in the following paragraphs). Her life also is chronicled annually since 1953 in annual Christmas letters that provide a rich record of the Lowenthal family.
Her family lived in various communities in Kansas where her father served as a teacher, coach, and school administrator, and her mother taught music. They spent their summers in Lawrence, KS, during the late 1920s while her father pursued his master’s degree at KU. She recalled a family outing to Hoch Auditorium on campus to see her first talking movie. She thought it might have been The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson, an experience that launched an 80-year romance with movies. When back in Lawrence the summer of 1930, Ruth recalled having learned about the fable of the boy who cried wolf. “It made a big impression on me as I was caught lying on occasion – and ceased,” she wrote.
Ruth graduated from Russell High in 1940, just as her mother had in 1911. One of the highlights of her high school years was a summer project she and a few other girls were hired to do in the school library. “It was probably then that I decided being a librarian was better than being a teacher,” she recalled. As a senior, she helped publish the school newspaper and was elected to the National Honor Society, “my proudest recognition of high school,” she said.
Having skipped a year of school, Ruth was young when she graduated. Finances were tight, and her mother was in poor health, so she stayed home the 1940-41 school year to help care for her brother and her youngest sister and to assist with housekeeping. The following year, Ruth enrolled in Fort Hays State University.
Ruth graduated from Fort Hays State in May 1945 with a B.A. degree in English and a minor in political science-sociology. Subsequently, she enrolled at the University of Illinois-Urbana and completed a degree in library science in 1946.
While at Fort Hays, Ruth met Al Lowenthal, who hailed from Connecticut, when he was stationed at Walker Army Air Base northeast of Victoria, Kansas in fall of 1944. They met at the Wesley Foundation college youth group Sunday night meetings during Ruth’s senior year. In May 1945 when Al learned he was to be sent overseas, he arranged to meet his parents and twin sister in Chicago, and he took Ruth to meet his family. After completing his assignment in China, he traveled by train from Olympia, Washington, to see Ruth at Urbana (during test time!) before going to visit his parents. Ruth and Al were engaged in February 1946 and married on August 1, 1946, which was the 25th wedding anniversary of Ruth’s parents.
After their wedding the couple settled in Hays where Ruth worked as a cataloger librarian for two and a half years and Al began his college career.
In 1950 the family moved to Oakley, Kansas, where Al took a position as the Farm Bureau Insurance General Agent which he combined with farming. Ruth managed the office and helped with the farming. They were early adopters of irrigated farming in 1953 and in the late 1950s during a severe drought irrigated for 300 days one year…an arduous task particularly during the winter months. That summer the family saw every movie at the two drive-in theatres and the movies changed twice a week. When the film credits were rolling, the family would head to the farm for Al to change the water settings.
Ruth and Al actively served in several capacities in the Methodist Church in both Oakley and Colby. Her ongoing passion was the women’s circles and their mission work. For six years, starting in 1962, Ruth served as the church secretary in Oakley.
A welcome professional opportunity came in the fall of 1966 when Ruth was chosen Director of Library Services at Colby Community College (CCC). The family moved to Colby in 1968. While on the faculty, she was instrumental in helping the new community college obtain accreditation. She was a mentor to her student employees, and several followed in her footsteps and became librarians. She held this position for 22 years.
While Director of Library Services at CCC, she launched the Western Plains Heritage Publications on behalf of CCC. Ruth was responsible for editing and publishing books about the regional cultural and historical heritage of the area. She treasured getting to know the authors and promoting their historical contributions of the region. As a member of the Kansas Library Association, she
served on the committee that designed the College and Universities Library Section of the association, a group in which she networked for years, several of which she also was listed in Who’s Who Among Women. Ruth retired as Director of Library Services at CCC in 1988.
Ruth was engaged in various organizations throughout her life. While her daughter was involved in Girl Scouts, Ruth had been as well, becoming the Girl Scout neighborhood chair, and she helped organize the inaugural day camp. Even as a child, Ruth had recognized the value of relationships developed in clubs. The summer before she entered fourth grade, she and her sisters and two neighborhood boys formed The Meadowlark Club, meeting weekly in clean clothes and enjoying refreshments provided by their mothers, having programs and conducting business. She recalled some 70 years later that “we were quite formal in our organization so far as our understanding of parliamentary procedure was concerned.” Later, while living in Hays, she would help form a social book review club called Sorosis that continued for decades. Again, when at CCC, as a charter member, she helped form the local chapter of the American Association of University Women. Within these organizations she would lend her organizational skills, introduce innovative fundraising endeavors, and often serve as officers or present programs. In retirement, she continued her involvement in the General Federated Woman’s Club, her 44-year-long membership in P.E.O. Chapter CE, participated in the Methodist Women’s Society of Christian Service, and her beloved Writer’s Group.
At the 1993 Colby Community College Commencement, Ruth and Al were each presented Honorary Degree of Associate of Arts in recognition of their many services to the community as well as to the college.
A collector of dolls, Ruth also was known from her elaborate doll clothes. In the early 1950s and 60s, “when the Barbie and her friends were becoming established as the all-American doll, I bought patterns designed to provide complete wardrobes for Barbie, Ginger, Ken or whomever,” she recalled. Using scraps of fabric, she fashioned outfits for occasions like a “Ping Pong Date” or “Square Dance” for dolls of family and friends. One year, she gifted the Oakley church bazaar with enough outfits (none selling for more than $4) to raise $80. She decorated dresses with sequins and beads which demanded great patience; they were beautifully rendered.
Ruth, always an avid reader, began documenting her reading in 1976. Her log indicates she had read 4,761 books by the end of 2010 when macular degeneration robbed her of her vision. She donated her extensive personal collection of books to libraries.
Another of Ruth’s lifelong interests was travel. She took trips with sisters, with Al and with David’s family throughout the U.S., including New England, D.C., New York, San Francisco (touring in a limo), tulip festivals, Yellowstone, Florida (including a night launch of the Space Shuttle), several cruises on the elegant Delta Queen and annual treks to Estes Park, Colorado…Europe…and Canada (Lake Louise and Banff).
To celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, Al and Ruth took the family on an Alaskan cruise on a small ship. The party of 16 dominated the small group of about 60 passengers. With a small ship they were able to get up close and personal with the glaciers. Many lasting memories were created on that trip sharing time together reveling in the natural beauty of Alaska and the amazing wildlife.
Speaking of anniversaries, Ruth treasured each card Al gave her from her wedding day and each of the 61 anniversaries they celebrated before Al’s death in 2008. She had saved them along with others they received in a large white leather-bound scrapbook and after 50 years of cards, she needed to decide what to do with the next 11 years that were left loose. She called the archives of the Hallmark Company and offered her collection to them, and they gladly accepted. Two years later, as Hallmark prepared to celebrate its 100th anniversary of business, Ruth was filmed talking about her collection for a Hallmark Moment that was aired throughout the anniversary year. She had her 15 minutes of fame! Ruth recalled the filming, admitting it was quite the production. “Rarely had I ever been such a focus of attention….Yes, I did sign a model’s release form.”
When Al underwent rehabilitation therapy in early January 2008 in Lawrence, KS, after suffering a stroke a month earlier at their home in Colby, KS, Ruth became a resident of Pioneer Ridge Assisted Living facility. After Al died in February 2008, Ruth continued to live at Pioneer Ridge until a year before her death when she moved to Pioneer Ridge Health Care. While in Assisted Living, she started a writing group and helped plan both her 90th and 95th birthday parties. She was an affiliated member of the First United Methodist Church in Lawrence, attending worship services for as long as she was able. Ruth enjoyed lively family discussions, often serving as the fact checker when younger minds failed.
She is preceded in death by her husband Al, son Jeff, and daughter-in-law Barbara (David) Lowenthal.
Immediate family survivors include:
Deb and Ron Teeter, daughter and son-in-law, Lawrence
Richard and Kathy Lowenthal, son and daughter-in-law, Scott City
David, son, Lawrence, and Dian Volkmer
Jackie and Toby Eastland, granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Prosper, Texas
Taylor and Katelyn Eastland, great-granddaughters, Prosper, Texas
Blake and Rhiannon Lowenthal, grandson and granddaughter-in-law, Topeka
Janessa Lowenthal, granddaughter, Kansas City, Missouri
Todd Isaac, grandson, Lawrence
Natalie Isaac, granddaughter, Leavenworth
Christina Lowenthal, granddaughter, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Memorial gifts can be made to Colby Community College Endowment Foundation,
1255 South Range, Colby, KS 67701 Memo: Ruth H. & Alfred Lowenthal Jr. Scholarship Fund
or the Colby United Methodist Church, 950 South Franklin Ave., Colby, KS 67701 Memo: Al’s Place at St. Arbucks. (Al’s Place is a coffee nook in the foyer of church which was named for Al Lowenthal.)