Ruth Unternahrer Kauffman, 89, died peacefully Friday, June 21, 2019, in the home of her eldest daughter in Lebanon, Oregon.
She was born on Oct. 24, 1929, in the family farmhouse just outside of Wayland, Iowa. She joined her sister Edna in the family that grew to include one more sister and five younger brothers.
She attended Wayland public schools through high school, then graduated from Hesston College located in Hesston, Kansas. While there, she met her husband, Joe Kauffman, who was also attending college. From there she went on to LaJunta, Colorado, to attend the Mennonite School of Nursing. Unfortunately while there, she contracted tuberculosis while caring for patients in the LaJunta hospital. After a year of recuperation in the sanitarium, she and Joe were married in Raton, New Mexico, on July 18, 1952. They remained in LaJunta until the fall of 1953 when they returned to Joe’s home near Kalispell. Except for a brief two-year period spent in Homer, Alaska, and one year spent near Salem, Oregon, they resided in Kalispell until 2010. At that time they moved to Lebanon, Oregon, where they lived close to family members.
Ruth had a quiet, loving spirit that put people at ease in her presence. She cared deeply for all those around her. She typically chose to serve others quietly behind the scenes in whatever way she was able. Over a 25-plus year period, Ruth and Joe welcomed and loved 60 foster children into their home. Some stayed many years, some a few days, weeks, or months. Often the love poured out on these hurting children was at great personal cost to Ruth. She was deeply committed to this mission and gladly did what she felt God had called her to do.
She served faithfully at Mountain View Mennonite Church where she and Joe were members. She taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, and participated in the Women’s Sewing Circle in various ways. While in Oregon they were a part of Lebanon Mennonite Church.
Ruth also participated in community events such as fundraisers for the local Volunteer Fire Department at Creston. She was known far and wide for her excellent baking skills. “Mysteriously” her fresh donations of homemade breads, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, etc. never made it out to the sale table for general purchase. Community volunteers manning the baked goods booth kept a careful eye out for Ruth’s arrival, purchasing her donations on the spot as treats for their own families. Many years were also spent donating to, cooking for, and serving hot meals to the homeless in Kalispell through the Feeding the Flathead organization.
Ruth had many well-loved, dear friends in both the community and the church family.
Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Joe Kauffman, her parents Jacob and Mayme (Leichty) Unternahrer, one brother Ralph Unternahrer, one sister Mildred (Unternahrer) Beckler, one daughter Kelli White, one son Charles Upham, and one grandson Jordan Carlson.
She is survived by one sister, Edna (Unternahrer) Beckler, of Kalispell; four brothers, Daniel (Annabelle) Unternahrer of Shipshewana, Indiana, Harold Unternahrer of Wayland, Iowa, John (Phianna) Unternahrer of Wayland, and Clarence (Linda) Unternahrer of Ainsworth, Iowa; four daughters, Kristina (Leonard) Krabill and Amy (Todd) Borntreger of Lebanon, Oregon, Tracy (Bruce) Drury of Libby, and Sandra Cannon of Buda, Texas; five sons, Brent (Debra) Kauffman of Lebanon, Oregon, Doug (Sherry Jolley) Kauffman, Scott (Patti) Carlson of Kalispell, Raymond (Jasmine) Burland of Ronan, and David Kauffman of Deerlodge; 17 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and a multitude of nieces, nephews and extended family.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21, at Mountain View Mennonite Church in Kalispell.
A memorial service will also be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 1 at New Hope Church, Lebanon, Oregon.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations in her name to Mennonite Central Committee, 1010 G St., Reedley, California 93654.