Ruth Eleanor Sunday
March 8, 1916 - February 8, 2013
Ruth Eleanor Sunday, a resident of Hood River, Ore. since 1948, quietly and peacefully passed at the grand age of 96 (almost 97) in Richland, Wash., on Feb. 8, 2013, surrounded by her family and close friends.
Ruth was born on March 8, 1916, to James and Emma Stephan in Ida Grove County, Iowa. She grew up on the quintessential Iowa corn farm near the small town of Odebolt, Iowa.
She spent her entire younger years running and playing in the wide open spaces with of the farm with her brother Ralph. She most fondly remembers her border collie Fido as her constant companion in her adventures.
Ruth was truly of two different ages; she started out in a time reminiscent to one of her favorite shows, “Little House on the Prairie,” and lived to a time that has seen a man on the moon and smartphones.
Ruth spent her late teens and early 20s teaching other students in the small Odebolt grade school. Eventually, the pioneer spirit in her felt the need to roam and she left Odebolt behind and journeyed out west to sunny San Diego, Calif.
Ruth always said she loved growing up on the Iowa farm and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. But, now in warm and sunny San Diego, she found a new life that she came to really love.
Ruth soon found work as the house keeper and care giver to a retired navy man, Eddie Stewart. Ruth worked for Eddie from 1939-45 and even up until her passing, still talked about how much she loved San Diego.
For most of her life, Ruth was too busy enjoying life to bother with the men that paid court to her until she fell head over heels in 1942 for a handsome, fun-loving young navy guy from North Dakota named Harry Ashley Sunday (Ash). She stayed in San Diego while Ash served aboard a Navy PBY2Y patrol bomber over the pacific theater during World War II. In 1943, son Larry James was born.
The Sundays stayed in San Diego, while Ash recovered from severe wounds until 1945. In 1946 they moved to Dufur in eastern Oregon where Ash and Ruth bought and ran the Dufur Café. This was always a standing prickly joke between Ruth and Ash because neither was a true restaurateur; but a good thing during this adventure was the birth of their second son, Darrel Dean.
Soon after, they sold the café and moved to Hood River, Ore. to be closer to Ash’s mom, Inga, and her sisters. They started in the small rural community of Odell, Ore., right in the heart of the spectacular Hood River Valley, and bought a small orchard. During the start of this adventure their daughter Dawn Dee was born in 1949.
This venture was later to become the second prickly joke between them, as they both agreed that, while they liked to can and eat apples and pears, neither one of them was an orchardist.
They stayed in the Odell house until 1956, when they decided to move closer to Ash’s job in Hood River and thus began the longest and most satisfying part of Ruth’s life. She always said that next to being a small girl on the farm and her short stint in San Diego, living in Hood River was her lifelong joy (of course raising her kids also fit in there too).
Ruth truly loved nature and cherished her time spent outdoors. Those adventurous and exploratory years later transformed her into a Master Gardener right up until her final days at her longtime home on Tucker Road.
Her favorite times were spent weeding her gardens, tending her cactus in her greenhouse, hunting rocks with Ash, Larry and Darrel, hearing stories about Dawn’s travels, and just sitting in her swing and looking at Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams to the north; she said this was the most beautiful view around.
Ruth had two distinct looks about her: the elegantly dressed woman that went to town and the farmer in dirty work clothes that tended her beautiful gardens. Ruth was the perfect original creative artist in many formats. She could paint pictures of birds and cactus, carve outstanding figures from soapstone, embroider and create picture motif quilts, and made many of plastic stitch craft articles for everyone on the planet.
Ruth entered her flowers and crafts in the Hood River County Fair for over 50 years and must have had a near record for most blue ribbons won. No matter how many ribbons she won, she always was overjoyed with each because it represented a display of her creative gifts with others.
Over 30 years ago, Ash introduced Ruth to the Odell Lions Club and it was love at first “sight” from that day on. One of the most exciting things in both Ruth and Ash’s lives was the annual Lions Follies, in which they were always deeply involved. Ruth was also excited to help pack apples for the annual apple sale. Every year (including this year) she would climb into the huge apple bin and pack hundreds of apples.
She was an active Lion right up until her passing. In 2012, she was named the “oldest working Lion in Oregon” at 96 years old.
Ruth will always be remembered for the “bigger than life” energy she shared with everyone that knew her. Her resilient character is almost legendary; she survived being struck by lightning, almost losing her legs to frostbite in a blizzard as a child to being buried alive during a rock hound adventure.
Ruth was preceded in death by her husband and friend, Harry Ashley (Ash) Sunday; her mother (Emma) and father (James) and her brother (Ralph).
She is survived by her son Larry Sunday (Vonnie), her son Darrel Sunday (Tami), and her daughter Dawn McDaniel (Jerry); six grandchildren (Chris, Tina, Traci, Sean, Aaron and Marc) and six great-grandchildren (Joshua, Anna, Cohen, Livy, Brenden and Camron) She is also survived by some very close and dear friends left behind in Hood River and West Richland, Wash., especially her close confident, Cherie Vannett.
A celebration of Ruth’s life will be held at 2 p.m. March 9 at the Odell Lions Club: Odd Fellow/Rebekah Lodge Hall, 3051 Odell Highway, Odell. We will share stories and mementos of Ruth’s amazing life. Please call 509-947-0592 with any questions.
In lieu of flowers please consider memorial donations to:
The Odell Lions Club
P.O. Box 1
Odell, OR 97044