RuthAnn Wilson died on February 23, 2016, peacefully at home with family and her beloved poodle, Peppers by her side.
She was born to Hans and Edna Bakke Nielsen on April 20, 1939, in Stanley, Wisconsin. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Lori Wilson; parents, Hans and Edna Nielsen, and sister Mary Faille.
She is survived by her soul mate and partner, Pamela Calley, her children, Elizabeth (Tom) Swartz, Tamara (Kelby) Nelson, Teresa Pigott, and David
She has 13 grandchildren: Issac (Kathleen) Swartz, Calvin Swartz, Emily (Christian) Patin, Nolan Swartz, Koenrad (Christin) Swartz, Dexter Swartz, Riley Swartz, Justin (Nicole) Sherriff, Bethany (James) Clement, Joel Pigott, Nathan Pigott, Miranda Pigott and Jackson Wilson. She has three great grandchildren: Landon Swartz, Lincoln Swartz and Michael Cruz; and numerous nieces and nephews.
RuthAnn was a member of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, WA, a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, friend, writer, dog lover, avid reader and
lifelong learner. She was passionate about her faith, social justice, Norskedalen, genealogy, theology, people’s stories, traveling and her family. She enjoyed visiting relatives around the world.
Her hobbies included reading, traveling, gardening, quilting genealogy, writing, and painting, both water color and rosemaling. She was also learning Hardanger embroidery.
The two most important things in her life have been growing in her walk with Jesus and loving her four adult children and 13 grandchildren and their
partners and three (four) great-grandsons.
A highlight for RuthAnn’s life was to take several of her grandchildren, for their 18th birthday, to visit the birthplace of her great grandparents in Denmark and Norway to learn about her Scandinavian roots and heritage. She was born on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, attended one-room country schools through 7th grade, and then moved to the Pacific Northwest. She attended Marysville schools and graduated Twin City High in Stanwood, WA in 1957.
She began work in Seattle, WA at Bell Telephone as Service Rep. She completed her teaching degree at WWU while owning and operating Peppermint Park Daycare and PreSchool in Mount Vernon, WA earning her M. Ed.
RuthAnn taught pre-school through college in Washington, including in North River near Montesano and at Grays Harbor Community College. She
participated in a teacher exchange in Pennyslvania at Pearl Buck Elementary School near Philadelphia.
Her most recent employment was with the district program for gifted students (HiCap) at Pinewood Elementary in Marysville, WA.
After her children were grown, summers usually found her in foreign countries. She “rail-passed” most of Europe and Australia, she taught English in Poland and Bolivia, excavated ruins in Israel for Earthwatch, photographed remote villages in Tanzania for Earthwatch, and represented the USA with People to People in China.
She taught summer programs on six continents, and a year at the International School Service in Congo, Africa. As an educator with a background in psychology and anthropology. RuthAnn taught all over the world, participating in mission trips and summer programs on six continents.
RuthAnn retired from teaching in 2001. She bought a summer home in Westby, Wis., where she spent half of each year for 10 years reconnecting to
her roots. She volunteered at Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center. Her first visit was in 1979, with her beloved Uncle Lawrence Bakke. She served as a
board member and on many committees, the Barnehuset and Audio Tours projects.
During her time in Westby, she was also active in Sons of Norway, Lions Club, Coon Prairie Lutheran Church, and the Westby Area Historical Society. She was recognized in 2015 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Historical Society and was most recently awarded the 2016 Volunteer of the Year at Norskedalen.
Her life’s bucket list was nearly accomplished. However, a few dreams were not finished, including early dreams of becoming a doctor, a missionary or pastor, a pilot, or an astronaut. She also did not ride in the Iditarod, visit Antarctica, or go through the Panama Canal.
In her last months, her greatest joy was gathering her family around to share their hopes, dreams and memories.
In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to: Holy Spirit Lutheran Church 10021 NE 124th St., Kirkland, WA 98034, Norskedalen Nature Heritage Center, PO Box 235, Coon Valley, WI 54623 or Westby Country Coon Prairie 500 S Main St., Westby, WI 54667