A Tribute to Ruth Brunner Lees

Ruth and Earl’s wedding picture, May 10, 1947.

My mother-in-law – Ruth Anna Brunner Lees was born on St. Patrick’s day, 1921 in West Newton, Pennsylvania. She passed away 98 years later in Mount Vernon, Illinois. Click here for her obituary.

Her early childhood was full of happy memories for Ruth – of her mother that is. On the other hand, she recalls her mother did all the hard work around the farm, milking the cows. She died at the age of 49 in 1931 according to Ancestry.com

That meant Ruth was 10 years old, her little sister Rosella (Posey) was nine years old and their brother Warren was 12. According to Ruth, their father decided he couldn’t raise three children by himself so he abandoned them.

However, Warren had a different memory. He claimed that their dad needed to move to find work. He tried to take the three children with him but their mother’s sisters wouldn’t let him. And then Ruth seemed to believe her father contributed to her mother’s early passing because she worked so hard milking all the cows. He tended to drink alcohol instead of “working.” Not such good childhood memories after all.

Their aunts got together and selected one single aunt – Rosella Huber (Ruth’s little sister’s namesake) to take responsibility for them. She worked full-time for the railroad and lived in a small apartment a town away. She had inherited a farmhouse – without the farm. She thought that would be a better place for the children to live. She would bring them supplies on the weekends, but in essence, the three children raised themselves!

One memory Ruth shared was how they ate dandelion soup….Another memory was at her mother’s gravesite – the “preacher” as she called him told her she needed to surrender her life to Jesus because that was her only hope! She didn’t share many other memories but her life was consumed with sadness over her mother’s death and then abandonment by her father.

When you think about their lives, Jesus definitely had His hand on them! They faithfully attended school and all became productive members of society (as you can read in the links to her siblings obituaries by clicking on their names). The two sisters were more like twins, never far apart. They decided they wanted to be nurses. So Ruth waited one year for her sister to graduate from high school, then they went to nursing school together. Their aunt Rosella lent them their tuition – which was paid back.

Soon after graduation, World War II broke out. They both signed up! Initially, they were going to be sent to different areas, but Ruth insisted they be assigned together. And they were.

After the war, they returned to their hometown area. Posey met her future husband – and then they fixed Ruth up with his best friend, Earl Lees. After their marriages, they built their homes on the same street, rather Posey’s husband built them as he was a contractor. Ruth had her two children first (my husband and his brother, David), then Posey had a baby girl, named after Ruth.

The two sisters were housewives on the same street, as nurses, raising their children. They were active in their church. Ruth and Posey started out working in the nursery and as their children grew older, took on other responsibilities. Ruth eventually became the “Superintendent” of the Sunday School. Earl became an Elder. They all were very Community minded and everyone knew how kind and generous they were. Pretty much living the Mayberry lifestyle.

Then tragedy struck. Posey’s husband died when their daughter was eight years old. The two sisters became even closer! Posey and her daughter then ate dinner with the Lees every night. Eventually, Posey went on with her education so she could become a school nurse –  a better-paying job with better hours for a widowed mother. Ruth took care of her namesake niece.

Ruth and Earl knew how to manage their money! Earl worked at Westinghouse, in the factory. Not the best paying job but enough for Ruth to stay home. They had their home paid for before they had children just for that reason. But Ruth kept her skills up by becoming a volunteer with the Red Cross. And then for about 18 months, the workers went on strike at Westinghouse. Ruth went to work as a Private Duty nurse and continued that once the boys were older.

They had a beautiful yard (it made the local news) and a huge garden. They shared their vegetables with the neighbors. Both boys were pretty much spoiled – they both wore very nice clothes and each had a car in high school. At the same time, they were taught a good work ethic and how to manage their money.

Bill’s older brother, David was drafted during the Vietnam War. So he enlisted and eventually landed in Jacksonville, Florida. Bill on the other hand, had a very high draft number. He also had low motivation to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. He remembered clearly his mom pretty much jerked him out of bed one summer day after he graduated. She then literally hauled him to Vale Tech, a technical training school for mechanics and auto body work.  It seemed like a good idea since his college prep courses in high school never gave him the desire to go to college. Eighteen months later, Bill was certified and had a job. And then David invited him to come to see him in Jacksonville and Bill’s love affair with Florida began.

Eventually, Posey remarried – a widower in their neighborhood. Then in 1989, they decided to start spending their winters in Florida. They found a place in Sebring. They were snowbirds for a few years. Then decided to move to Sebring full time. Posey now was a grandmother to an adorable baby granddaughter. I remember thinking how could Posey leave her granddaughter???? Anyway, then another tragedy hit.

Earl Lees had been cancer free for five years. He had colon cancer and they thought they got it all – it is the easiest cancer to remove. But soon after his five-year “cancer” free window, he was diagnosed with lung cancer – which took his life two years later. This was the same winter Posey moved to Florida. I couldn’t imagine how Ruth would manage without Posey. But again, the Lord had His hand on her!

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Job 12:12

One thought on “A Tribute to Ruth Brunner Lees

  1. Reblogged this on Follow the Tumble Lees! and commented:

    My blogging has slowed down since we’ve settled down. But I still have so much I want to share – and this one has taken me a few months to finalize! My mother-in-law was such a huge blessing to her family. She was so humble, she never would have wanted us to share her life story. But it is an important one and for the sake of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, her story needs to be told and re-told!


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