On August 9th our darling Grandma Ruthie had her 90th birthday. The past few years have been so hard for her! She has gradually lost her memory to the point that she doesn’t know who any of us are anymore, but she does know that we love her and she clearly loves being surrounded by people who adore her.
Even though she suffers with dementia, she is still pretty much who she is, still almost always good-natured, patient and kind, and still has her sense of humor, is great at asking questions (usually the same one over and over) and is enjoying her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She can’t see much any more and her ears aren’t good either. Even though her quality of life isn’t good, she carries on! Still, old age is the pits!
Grandma has now been a widow for 50 years. Her husband, our beloved Grandpa Dean died of colon cancer when she was 38 and he was 39. They were just getting started in life.What a tragedy! Her oldest son was Richard who was 15 at the time his dad died. Four younger siblings ranged in age from 13 to 3.
Grandma raised those five children on her own with faith and strength. Next to that great feat, probably her greatest accomplishment is having written the original lesson plans for the Joy Schools which were based on our book called Teaching Children Joy which we wrote 37 years ago, just before we left the country because of a call from our church for Richard to be a Mission President in England.
Incredible people came out of the woodwork to help us with music and art way back then when we were crafting the Joy School idea. And while we spent three years in England, Grandma Ruthie used her expertise as an Early Childhood Development major at USU to write minute-by-minute lesson plans that included finger plays, creative dance, stories and fun activities to teach 12 Joys in life that every pre-school child could and should experience!
After writing the plans, she taught the lessons for many years at the very first Joy School in Logan. Even though the lesson plans were designed for moms to use in their homes as they rotate teaching with their friends and neighbors to teach their children JOY, she used this school as a laboratory to see if her ideas worked. They did!
We had no idea how far that idea would go. We have now had about 200,000 parents who have or are presently participating in Joy School since that first experimental school began in 1975.
So for her birthday we took her back to that cute little original Joy School. Many of her great grandchildren sat where so many of her students had sat for so many years where they sang her favorite Joy School songs to her. And somewhere back in her memory came all the words to the songs which she sang along with them!
Not all her family could be there, but all of her children and their spouses and well as three of her grandchildren and their children as well as two unmarried grandchildren all joined the chorus. Wish we’d have gotten the whole song but you’ll get the idea:
Here’s who came:
Son Chris and daughter-in-law Hedy…
Grand daughter-in-law Kimberly and her darling children. Looks as though Grandma was thrilled to see them!
Grand-daughter Tenille and her brand new baby and as well as her two little sons….
Granddaughter Saren and her little crew….
The two Eliza’s…second cousins born on the same day with the same name!
All these cute great grandchildren….
And all these onlookers, including not previously pictured: son Kevan (who takes care of Grandma in her own home of 55 years 24/7 and to whom we are forever grateful), grandson Howie, daughter Sheri and her husband Lynn and of course Dad/Rick and I were there too!
These pictures we painted on the walls of the school 36 years ago still looked pretty good! Although we’ve sold the Joy School, it’s still a working Joy School that has delighted hundreds of children in Logan!
After our capers at the Joy School we all retired to the park for a pizza and salad. Below is Emma Rae who is Grandpa Dean’s only brother’s widow. These two have spent a lot of time together through the years.
Grandma’s sister Margaret also came with her amazing husband Lael who was the Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication at BYU for many years. They were driven by their son and his wife. Her son Rawlin and his wife Karen and son and daughter Elizabeth and Patrick were there to but they came a little late and I neglected to get their pictures. Darn!
During a short program, all of the adults remembered good times and good things about the life of Grandma Ruthie. All happy memories. Dad/Rick shared a beautiful poem he had written about her life called “Nine Decades of Courage” which was heartfelt and delivered with his usual gusto.
For the kids the highlight was the cake and ice cream at the end.
Joy School has gone farther than we could have imagined in our wildest dreams! After every speech all over creation, moms come up to say that they did Joy School when their kids were little or that they are currently doing Joy School. Below is Joy School graduation from Aja’s group this year in Hawaii. They look pretty joyful! If anyone out there is interested in forming a Joy School of your own go to JoySchools.com.
Thanks to our extraordinary Grandma Ruthie for her contribution to the world! We know she is sad every day that she wakes up and hasn’t passed on to the next world to the arms of her precious Dean, but we’ll keep her as long as she can stay. What an inspiration she has been to us and so many throughout the world.