School 07


Ruth Vander Wilt

June 7, 1917 ~ July 27, 2018 (age 101)

Celeste Ruth Gerstma was born to Andrew and Dora (Kooistra) Gertsma June 7, 1917 on a farm north of Lynnville, Iowa. Her family eventually settled on and purchased a farm south of Lynnville when Ruth, as she was aways called, was eleven years old. She had a very happy childhood with a fun-loving mother and a kind and helpful father. She also enjoyed the company of many Kooistra cousins and eventually welcomed to the family her one and only sibling, a brother, Merlyn Bruce, in 1922 when Ruth was five years old.

Ruth graduated from Lynnville High School in 1936 along with seven other classmates. Even though she had dreams of becoming a nurse, her father encouraged her to become a teacher for a while. She attended a twelve week teacher’s course at the Iowa Teacher’s College in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and then went on to teach school north of Lynnville in a one room school house. She would board with various families and go home on the weekends.

The Neal Vander Wilt family and the Andrew Gertsma Family were neighbors. In fact, Andrew purchased his 80 acre farm from the Vander Wilt Family in 1928. Ruth married Neal and Mayme Vander Wilt’s oldest son, Orval, June 7, 1939 during a thunderstorm! The couple began their married life in Lynnville where Orval was operating the Standard Oil Station. Three years later they would move to Sully at which time Orval purchased a cream/milk route from Walt Vander Leest, and hauling milk and cream from the area farms to the Sully Creamery became his primary occupation for 32 years. Orval and Ruth also bought a home which would be their place of residence for the next 39 years. Here they raised their five children: Philip Bryan, Martha Diane, Charlotte Rose, Charles Dwight, and Mary Ellen. When the children were no longer so young, Ruth worked part time for the Lynnville-Sully School District as a school cook. She also planned and executed the food planning and preparation for many school banquets and events. In addition to home life, much of the family activities centered around the Sully Community Church where they faithfully attended whenever a service or meeting was being held. It was a quick two block walk from their home.

After Orval retired from the milk route, the couple sold their home and most of their household belongings and moved to an apartment to become managers at Fair Haven in Pella, Iowa, a residential facility for the elderly. This job suited Orval and Ruth very well and they worked in this capacity for five years. They continued to reside in a rented home one block from the square in Pella after leaving Fair Haven. The location of the home was significant to the family as it allowed them to visit often at Tulip Time in Pella and enjoy the festivities in such a convenient way. In this home Ruth entertained countless guests with delicious food and warm hospitality, dressed her grandchildren in Dutch costumes and remained kind and unruffled. Berean Baptist Church became a warm a welcoming church home for the Vander Wilts.

Orval passed away in 1990 after a lengthy illness and Ruth purchased a home and moved to Hillsboro, Kansas two years later to live “back door” to her daughter, Mary Ellen Tippin. In Kansas Ruth continued in her hospitable ways, entertaining, transporting, and being a friend to many widows and others she befriended. She made many of these friends at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church where she attended. Her grandchildren often would drop in with the assurance of a treat at Grandma Ruth’s house. After her daughter’s family made a move to near Newton, Kansas she eventually joined them, settling into an apartment at Presbyterian Manor in their independent living division. At the Broadway Apartments where Ruth lived for the next 11 years she enjoyed the "sociableness" of shared lunches with the other residents each day, game nights, Bible studies, outings and almost any social activity offered by the Manor. She was known and loved by all for her pleasant smile, happy demeanor, Christian living, and the ability to befriend anyone. Her days were filled with socializing, reading 5-10 books each month and numerous Christian periodicals, handwork, cooking for family events and game night, and corresponding with at least thirty different individuals and families.

Her 100th birthday was a grand celebration with most of her growing family attending a weekend event. June 7, 2018 saw her celebrating her 101st birthday a little more slowly but still with a sharp mind and the ability to live on her own.

The end of her life came quickly and peacefully on July 27, 2018 as she passed from here into God’s presence.

What marks Ruth’s remarkable life and what she would want to be remembered for is her devout Christian faith in Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord and living according to His Word, the Bible, each day in the big things as well as the small. This is what really made Ruth the loving, caring person that so many knew and loved. She will be remembered for the truly special woman that she was!

Preceding Ruth in death were her parents, Andrew and Dora Gertsma, her husband, Orval Vander Wilt, one daughter, Charlotte Christensen, and her brother, Merlyn Gertsma.

Ruth is survived by four of her children and spouses: Philip and Carolyn Vander Wilt of Vacaville, CA, Martha and Paul Ebbers of Cobbs Creek, VA, son-in-law Maury Christensen of Cobbs Creek, VA, Charles and Jennifer Vander Wilt of Sandy, UT, and Mary Ellen and RJ Tippin of Newton, KS and a sister-in-law, Virginia Gertsma of Mesa, Arizona. Ruth is also survived by 13 grandchildren and their spouses, 32 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren