Ruth Pence, 86
Ruth Pence (nee Gueldner), 86, died November 14, 2018 at Aspirus Hospital in Antigo, Wisconsin after a brief illness. She was born May 26, 1932 in Mondovi, Wisconsin, the second of Clarence and Viola Gueldner’s three children. Ruth grew up in the Mondovi area and attended Spring Valley High School, where she met her future husband, William (Bill) Pence. She went on to study nursing at Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee, where she made lasting friendships and graduated with an R.N. degree.
Bill and Ruth married on September 17, 1955 while he was in dental school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where Ruth worked and their first two children were born. After Bill’s graduation, they moved to Neenah, Wisconsin, where he set up his dental practice, and they had three more children. In addition to the duties of full-time homemaker and mother par excellence, Ruth enjoyed golfing, reading, bridge, knitting, skiing and socializing with their many friends. Friday night at the Elks Club was a given.
In 1964, Bill and Ruth bought a tarpaper shack on Sawyer Lake in Langlade County. They worked hard to convert the shack into a comfortable three-season cottage, which would become the setting for many years of family fun and shenanigans. Every Friday, Ruth would pack up food, clothes, towels, kids and the dog, and load the whole mess into the family car promptly when Bill got home from the office for the two-hour drive to the lake.
After 12 years of town life, Bill and Ruth bought their “40 acres and a mule” with an old farmhouse near Larsen, Wisconsin and moved their large, young family out to the country. There, with her five little indentured servants, Ruth took up gardening and chicken-raising, and canned and froze the fruits of their labor. She was game to try anything (making sauerkraut and elderberry wine, raising beef calves and an injured baby crow named Joe, cooking wild game). Ruth learned to be a country wife, but always changed clothes and put on her lipstick to go to town.
Ruth went back to nursing as her children started to leave home for college. For about 20 years, she worked part-time at several nursing homes in the Neenah and Oshkosh area and found she had a special affinity for the “old folks.” Bill and Ruth eventually sold the old cottage and built a home on Sawyer Lake, to which they retired in 1991. Ruth enjoyed many years of golfing and Friday night fish fries at McCaslin Brook Country Club in Lakewood, her women’s book club, boat rides and family gatherings at the lake. Many a raucous and delicious family feast was had around the dining room table with Ruth in charge of her beloved kitchen. She loved a party, a good joke, dressing up for Halloween, reading, proper grammar and table manners, decorating for Christmas, baking bread and pies, knitting, watching her soaps, sending and receiving cards and letters, flowers and plants (especially orchids), traveling with Bill and friends (out West to ski, to the Virgin Islands, Mexico and Florida in the winters) and with her girls (the Pence Women’s Tour formed in 1999 and took many marvelous trips together), nice clothes, eating a meal someone else cooked, a fire in the fireplace, lunch with the ladies, yelling at the Packers on T.V., babies and well-behaved dogs.
Ruth grew up in hard times and learned the value of frugality, hard work and an education. Nonetheless, she developed a sunny disposition, joie de vivre, and a fierce love of family. Over the last 10 years of her life, Alzheimer’s disease slowly robbed Ruth of her memory and language, but never of her sense of humor, her kindness, or her gracious joy at receiving a friendly visitor. She remained a “people person” until the end. The family would like to thank the staff at Lakewood Assisted Living for their gentle care, understanding and appreciation of Ruth during her last three years of life.
Ruth was preceded in death by her two brothers, Robert and Richard Gueldner, and one daughter, Kathrine (Pence) Miller. She is survived by her husband William; three daughters, Lynn Leazer (Richard), Mary Pence, Jennifer Goodwin (Erik) and a son, Richard Pence (Diane); seven grandchildren, Elizabeth (Leazer) Palvere, Steven Leazer, Sara Stanton, Katherine Pence, William Pence, Joseph Goodwin and Kelly Goodwin; and four great-grandsons, Benjamin Palvere, James Palvere, William Leazer and Timothy Leazer.
Friends and family are invited to celebrate Ruth’s life at Bradley Funeral Home, 1550 Neva Rd., Antigo, Wisconsin on December 8, 2018 with visitation from 11 a.m. to noon, a celebration of life/story-telling at noon, and lunch to follow.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to Lakewood Assisted Living, 17185 Flynn Lane, Lakewood, WI 54138, the UW Initiative to End Alzheimer’s (https://memoriesmatteruw.org/ways-to-give/) or the charity of your choice.