After years of loving commitment and service to her family, patients and community, Ruth Whitney Bird, of Greer, retired peacefully from this life on March 14, 2021. She was 91.
Ruth was born October 30, 1929 in Hawthorn, Nevada, to Cal and Eva Welcome Whitney. The family which included two older sisters, Marjorie and Betty, moved to Montana where Ruth attended schools at Stevensville, Victor, and finally Hamilton where they settled down. In July 1946, seeking warmer winters, the family relocated to Orofino, ID. That fall, Ruth’s Montana boyfriend, Bill Bird, a pilot, bought THE engagement ring, rented a plane and soon put down on Orofino’s small tarmac. The couple drove to Hamilton in a blizzard, to get married Dec. 18, of that year. They returned to Orofino, and eventually moved to a little house in Greer, where her parents were now living. Two daughters were born, Kathy, in 1948 and Karen in 1949. In 1950 that special little house burned to the ground. The young family relocated to a home on Riverside.
Ruth’s mother, Eva Whitney, was known in the area as a gentle, caring woman. When Dr. Pappenhagen, long-time Orofino physician, approached her about taking in a boarder, an old Lumberjack, with no family and in need of a home and some health care assistance, Eva agreed. Over time others came, mostly old lumberjacks, with similar needs. The Whitney home was expanded with an eye to the future. The construction carefully followed the health and safety guideline requirements of the State of Idaho and officially established the Arcadian Nursing Home, the first care center in the area.
Ruth worked with her mother in the operation of the home, and as state requirements increased, Ruth and family moved to Lewiston where she enrolled in the Licensed Practical Nurse program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. After graduating third in her class and returning to Greer, with her family, to live and work at the Arcadian Nursing Home, she went on to become the first woman licensed as a Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Idaho.
With the close of the Home, Ruth assisted with the opening of the Orofino Convalescent Center and worked there for a time, moving on to nursing at Clearwater Valley Hospital. Ruth was a natural born caregiver and in her roles as a nursing home administrator and LPN she served faithfully and lovingly to individuals in all stages of life. She loved working with mothers and babies at CVH and caring patiently and tenderly, for those in the final stages of life, as well as providing high-level care to all those in-between. Ruth loved all her “Nursing Buddies” who slipped into “older age” together and became the “Old Nurses Breakfast Club” meeting together once a month for birthday parties and storytelling. She loved the new nurses too, mentoring and nurturing them, sharing nuggets of care that are sometimes overlooked in the rigorous training of the day. The love with colleagues was mutual and in 1978 her peers honored her as the Idaho State LPN of the year.
Ruth and Bill were actively engaged with the Veterans of Foreign Wars specifically Post #3296 in Orofino. In 1960, Ruth was elected Idaho state President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW. At the time, she was the youngest woman ever to serve in that role.
Mama was a Believer in God, which went really well with her spontaneous nature! For example: we were visiting with the cousins in Colfax to show off the new brother in 1960. Mom heard on the TV that the Worlds Fair in Seattle would be closing soon. Mom felt that was just too close for us kids to miss, so she loaded Gerald, Robert, Kathy, and Karen in the car; left the little ones with Aunt Betty and off we went to the world’s Fair of 1960!
Mom knew we were in God’s hands as we just drove right through the traffic and pulled up in sight of one of entry-gates into the fair. We were by a little building where mom got us a downstairs apartment to stay in! It was clean and cheerful. We had no need to get back in our car until we left two days later to return safely home. It was a wonderful experience which gave us our first glimpse of how big the world truly is.
We each had our likenesses drawn for our parents, and we each chose a souvenir of what we liked most, mine were chopsticks and I have eaten with one kind or another at least once a week all these years. I thought my Mom was the bravest person in the whole world,,,and the most fun!
Miss Ruth loved the hunt for collectibles and antiques and for, a number of years enjoyed operating the Dusty Trunk Antiques and Collectibles Shop out of their home in Greer. She loved gardening and had a great hand with roses. She would tell you that Jim Reeves was her favorite singer, that seedless red grapes are the best ever and that pantyhose were the greatest innovation of her lifetime. She was never without a dog, and you may know Tinkerbell, a frequent visitor at Brookside. We often called her “Flora Fauna” because of her love of nature and camping. Mom and Dad loved to go to the Wilderness Gateway Jams with all their friends and on at least one occasion a chipmunk was greeting the folks to their camp.
Mom was a life-time member of the Clearwater Valley Hospital Auxiliary and enjoyed the challenge of fund raising for the good cause. It is interesting to note that our Ruthie passed just a month after the disbanding of the CVH Auxiliary in Feb. of this year, after both gave years of faithful service.
Ruth was proceeded in death by her husband, Bill Bird; her parents, Eva and Cal Whitney and her father-in-law, Jesse “Pop” Bird; her sisters and brothers-in- law: Betty and Berne Davis, Marjorie and Lyle Davis, Betty Bird and Sulo Wouri; a very special nephew, Leonard Davis; too many dear friends; and several Irish ancestors.
Ruth (Dearest Darling, Ruth Alice, Miss Ruth, Mamma, Mom, Grandma, Grammy, Gigi, Auntie Ruth, Sister, Dear Friend) whatever your name for her might be, is survived by her daughters: Kathy and Gary Breen, and Karen/Bird and Michael Goodwin. Also, an adopted son, William Bird. She is survived by five grandchildren: Joshua Goodwin, Caleb Goodwin, Camas Brandt, Janessa Englehard, and Evan Breen. Thirteen great-grandchildren: Josh and Amanda: Gabe, Whitney, Tyler and Taylor; Caleb and Lisa: Paxton, and Brooks, Skyler and Zach; Camas: Myles and Fisher; Janessa and Jordan; Isla and Jori; and one great-great grandson, Braxton Goodwin. Also surviving are three sets of wonderful in-laws.*and many beloved nieces and nephews of multiple generations.
*The story about the Bird in-laws, is one of the family favorites about Mom that deserves a little extra attention. Daddy was the eldest of the five siblings of Jesse/Jack and Emma Lorraine Bird. When Bill was twelve their mother died. Grandpa managed to fight off the do-gooders who wanted to split his kids up. He did not allow it and the family became close and helped each other. Daddy eventually graduated, joined the Navy and went to war. The others: Betty Jack, Jim, and Peggy finished school and, over a year or two all but Betty found their way to Orofino, ID, where brother, Bill lived with his lovely new bride, Ruth Whitney. There, in this kind loving woman was the mother they did not have during those growing up years in Stevensville, MT.
Mom taught them how to dance, how to socialize with good manners. How to talk to that special someone. As a result of these visits, all four (Betty came later after first husband had passed) married Orofino people! You may remember Sulo Wouri who married Betty, Virginia Sturgess, married Jack, Gerri Konkol married Jim, and Dale Bobbit married Peggy. These couples may have called Ruth “Matchmaker.” Of the five siblings, three couples still living, and now two have passed, approximately 395 years of marriage can be counted. That is a lot of commitment. And a lesson for us all that marriage can be everlasting.
This Sunday is Mothers’ Day. Our mother will not be with us physically, but we will feel her in our hearts, smell her in the flowers and blossoms she loved so much and we will celebrate this day for the rest of our days. If possible we were always home for Mothers’ Day, hanging out with her, maybe chewing our bubble gum and blowing bubbles, whatever your mom experiences are, find the happiest ones and nurture them. Be there Sunday or call first thing even if there are some complications…Our Mamas are the once who tend to love us unconditionally.
The family would like to give a heartfelt thankyou to some special folks: Ginger Arnold and her side-kick, Linda Hunter for the many years you have been with Mom and Dad doing everything from general housekeeping to yard sales to yard work to dusting the Dusty Trunk. You chased down the chocolate drink she loved and always cooked Dad’s eggs and hashbrowns “Just right!” A new friendship developed for you along the way as you stopped to see Ronotta to pick up a half dozen yummy scones for mama.
Things got more complicated as they aged and you both were always there for them. To Freddy Engblom and Lynn Monger for being the steadfast friends to Mama she ever could have hoped for. You were together in CVH Auxilliary, BUNCO, every sale or hunt for antiques and Beanie Babies. You have been steadfast visitors to Brookside and she loved you to the end.
Richard and Chrissy, your arrival in Greer was like a breath of fresh air for everyone. You were family to all of us and so good to Mom and Dad. Your devotion to Greer made it emotionally possible to leave there home of sixty-five years; your help with a home in Orofino made it physically possible. Thank you for your visits to Brookside Landing and the support of the family.
The family is also very thankful to and wish to acknowledge: Dr. Peterson and Nurse Arika for the many years of caring service to both of our parents. You were family. giving them trust, knowledge, confidence… the tools to deal with the challenges of aging; DeNeane Bretz, Director, and the entire staff at Brookside Landing for your diligence and love during the Covid-19 Pandemic; Elite Hospice, Nurse Sandy and Pastor Hank for their wisdom and spiritual guidance. We will miss our mother. She touched many lives and I believe we are ALL very grateful to have been in this life with her.
A Celebration of Life will be held at VFW Post #3296 in Orofino, ID on Saturday, May 22, 2021 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Please bring a few cut flowers from your yard to decorate our tables and share with others on Ruth’s behalf.
We encourage Covid Vaccine and have tried to allow time for accomplishing this before our Celebration. There will be masks available as well as plenty of hand sanitizer. Things are so much better, but we must stay diligent. Ruth would encourage you to decide what is the right thing for you to do regarding Covid. We do hope to see you.