I know mom has a lot of friends that would have loved to have been at her funeral service last week. I thought that you might enjoy reading her eulogy. My mom’s sister, Sharon, wrote the first part. I wrote the rest along with Patti and Bruce Spencer, who gave the eulogy. Also, I realize that for me, writing is therapeutic. I will probably be writing things about my mom for months and maybe years to come, but I will most likely do so on my personal blog, which you are welcome to follow: http://www.thepieceofglass.blogspot.com. At some point in the near-ish future, I will also post the pictures and thoughts that people have emailed to me about my mom. I actually thought more people would do this. If you have had any great experiences with her, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once I post everything that is sent to me, I will make a book out of this, my mom’s blog, which I will keep for my children to read.
One of my mom’s greatest desires and biggest concerns was that she would remain an important influence on her grandchildren. Since she had so many significant experiences over the years with people other than me, I anxious to compile some of them for my children to read as they grow up. When you happen to think of a special memory with my mom, please feel free to email it to me at your leisure. The more, the merrier! :) I hope you are all doing well and focusing on what you want to create in your life, since that was my mom’s greatest desire for the people she loved! Here is the eulogy:
Ruth Van Buren Stevens
Good morning, family and friends of Ruth Van Buren Stevens. We are Bruce & Patti Spencer from Mission Viejo, California, and have known Ruth for 25 years. She is a dear friend and we are honored that her family has asked us to participate in this celebration of her life.
Ruth was born on June 25, 1949 in Belleville, Illinois, the first of Howard and Alice Van Buren’s four daughters. She was raised in Warsaw, a small resort community in the Missouri Ozarks. Ruth spent her formative years there, graduating from Warsaw High School as Valedictorian in 1967. She exhibited leadership qualities early in her life. She taught piano and accordion lessons in her family’s music room as a teenager and designed and sewed her own clothing. She formed strong friendships in grade school that lasted her entire life. She is still considered a favorite daughter of her hometown after all these years. Ruth attended Ambassador College in Big Sandy, Texas after graduating from high school. She met and began dating Mitchell Knapp in the summer of 1968 while she was home from school. The following summer, Ruth had the unique opportunity to go on an Archeological dig in Jerusalem.
In January of 1970 she transferred to the Pasadena, California campus of Ambassador College and was married to Mitch in June of that same year. They moved to Merced, California after their marriage, to serve in the ministry. As a pastor’s wife, Ruth was loved by the congregation they served. Her common sense, strength, and natural interest in people made her an incredible asset wherever she went. She was a gracious and energetic hostess, and thoroughly enjoyed serving.
In 1972 Ruth became friends with some local artists and began selling their paintings. Her natural ability with people made her an incredible saleswoman. She drew people to her effortlessly with her charisma and warmth. In March of 1974, Michael was born. A few months later, the young family moved to Rockford, Illinois. Shortly thereafter, Ruth became involved in the health food industry and began building a business in her first network marketing venture. In 1978, when her daughter Michelle was born, she was so involved in her business that baby Michelle frequently traveled with her, even attending board meetings where her mother was the only woman present. Ruth was ambitious about her business, but included her children at every opportunity. Mike and Michelle often complained that they could do her sales presentation in their sleep because they had heard it so many times!
After her marriage ended, Ruth moved to Southern California with her two small children, where she soon became involved with Sunrider, an herbal nutrition company. Ruth loved networking and was a natural at it. Her love for people and her desire to make a difference in their lives were the forces that continually propelled her forward professionally. Her thriving business grew to include people in nearly 40 countries! She was an inspirational leader, mentoring people in their businesses as well as in their lives. Her focus as a leader was to inspire people to connect with their personal mission in life. Ruth was always focused on teaching people correct principles. She spent a great deal of time teaching and training people in business, but to her, business was all about personal relationships. She was constantly encouraging others to reach their dreams and to fulfill their potential.
When I first met Ruth about 25 years ago, I knew she was a great businesswoman. What I did not know back then, but what I later came to realize, is that she was also a great woman. Ruth was a born leader. People gravitated to her, and wanted to do what she was doing. She led by example. No one worked harder than Ruth. She worked hard because her goal was to help other people realize their dreams. It was never about how much she could have for herself. Even when Ruth was traveling, she was focused on the people she was helping. We would always have to stop somewhere to buy post cards, so that she could send her team messages of encouragement from different parts of the world. At Christmastime and on other special occasions, she would send handwritten cards and notes. For someone as busy as she was, this often took an extraordinary amount of effort. But it was important to her, and she made it happen.
The most important turning point in Ruth’s life was when she was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November of 1984. This decision influenced everything she did in her life from that point on. She had a deep testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and was always valiant and true to that testimony. She loved to serve in the church, and especially enjoyed teaching, which she had the opportunity to do for many years as both a Relief Society and a Gospel Doctrine teacher. People loved to go to her classes because she was so knowledgeable, and was such a powerful teacher. She was always passionate and had a way of bringing the scriptures to life. In everything Ruth did, she was “all in.”
Two of the happiest days of her life were when her teenage children chose to be baptized, Mike in 1990 and Michelle in 1993. Both Mike and Michelle served missions for the church. Ruth was able to pick up Mike from his mission in Argentina in 1995, and Michelle from her mission in New Jersey in 2002 – both were experiences that Ruth treasured. She loved traveling on business, especially when she was able to take her children. Ruth, Mike and Michelle traveled to many countries together. Ruth deeply cherished the friendships she made in her travels. At one point she had a second residence in London while working extensively in Europe with her business. Working in Europe was an absolute joy for her.
With all of Ruth’s traveling, she made time to see her parents and family as often as possible. She was a devoted daughter and sister, and provided the way for her children to have strong relationships with their grandparents even though they lived far away. She would sometimes have her parents come and stay for more than a month at a time at her home, creating memories that her children cherish to this day.
Although Ruth has been recognized as an entrepreneur and a leader in business, she was not widely known for her many other abilities. Ruth enjoyed cooking, sewing, gardening, art and music. She and I shared some of these interests. In former years, we both sewed most of our clothing. We were both garden nerds, taking cell phone pictures of flowers that were blooming in our gardens, and were excited when our fruit trees were bearing, or the strawberries were ripe. We both played the piano–Ruth was a piano major when she attended Ambassador College. Many of Ruth’s family members have artistic talent, and she had that gift as well. Ruth delighted in her grandchildren, and wanted them to know what she believed and what was important in life.
In 1996, when Michelle was heading to college, Ruth was inspired to move to Las Vegas. After having lived in Southern California for 14 years, she awoke one morning with the prompting that God wanted her to move there, and that is just what she did! On the way to Provo, Utah to drop off Michelle for her first year at BYU, they stopped in Las Vegas, found a house, made an offer on it, and continued on their way! When Ruth made up her mind, she wasted no time in implementing her decisions. She never resisted hard work; there wasn’t a lazy bone in her body!
Ruth and I went through many challenging times together. Regardless of the nature of the crisis, she was really good at making lemonade, and sometimes even lemon meringue pie, out of the lemons that life occasionally tossed at us. She always looked forward with a positive attitude, and was a great example of creating a desired reality through visualization and positive thinking. I believe that if it had been possible, Ruth would have visualized herself out of her last challenge here on earth. But like the Savior, she recognized that Father’s will needed to be done, and agreed to fulfill his purposes.
In 2004, Ruth uncovered a new passion in her life. Along with her daughter, Michelle, and daughter-in law, Carrie, she began creating an education system called “By Divine Design”. Together, they taught others about the colors, shapes, patterns and styles that would allow their true beauty to shine. Ruth absolutely loved to share this knowledge, as it had completely transformed her own life. It combined the things she was most passionate about in life: helping people to understand their divine nature and embrace their true identity, and being involved with her family.
Ruth was a great mentor to many people, helping them to look their best, and to dress in a way that would allow their true spirit to shine through. This was not an endeavor of vanity: as a facilitator, Ruth helped people to be their best and true selves. She loved this quote: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
In 2006, Ruth left her Sunrider career behind and joined Monavie, a nutritional juice company with inspiring leadership where she again poured her heart and soul into empowering others to fulfill their potential.
In 2007, Ruth became a grandma, an event she was incredibly excited about. At age 57, she definitely felt that it was time. She assisted at the birth of her first two grandchildren, who were actually born in her home. She loved every moment with her precious grandchildren. Nothing in her life trumped her desire to be a part of their lives. She travelled to Bear Lake, Utah as often as possible to be with Mike’s family and spent time with Michelle’s family at least once a week here in Las Vegas.
In 2009, she met Curtis Stevens, the man who would become her husband and eternal companion. He heard her speak at a church fireside and was deeply impressed by her stature, wisdom and beauty. Curtis convinced Ruth that they were meant to be together, and they were sealed in the Las Vegas temple in July of 2010. Her greatest unfulfilled desire became a reality with this marriage; she loved being Curtis’ wife. Their blended family consisted of seven children and thirteen grandchildren. Curtis unselfishly served Ruth through every moment of her painful and difficult battle with cancer, and she loved him all the more for it. His love and support has been complete and unwavering, and we all are most grateful to him for his dedication to her.
Among the many tributes to Ruth that have been received was this one from Randy Larsen:
My heart is so full as I think of Ruth’s amazing spirit and life. She truly played huge in life. She inspired me and others with her light and joy and she manifested the glory of God that is in her to everyone. She inspired others with her faith. Ruth, you are now liberated from physical pain, yet your spirit will continue to liberate me and others of pain and fear because of your courage and faith. I am eternally thankful for your heart and inspiration and light.
To know Ruth was to love her. She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend. We have all been touched by Ruth’s radiant life. She radiated love, light and beauty to all who knew her. She was like a shooting star whose bright light could be seen and felt by everyone, and then suddenly was gone. But she’s only gone from our view. Many of you have expressed “Rest in peace” in regard to Ruth. I know that she’s in peace, but I don’t think “rest” is part of her vocabulary. You can be sure she’s busy fulfilling her next assignment, and loving it. Ruth’s courage and faith will continue to inspire us all.
Ruth, we know that you are with us here today. You have touched all of our lives and we are better people for it. We miss you, but know that you are actively engaged in serving others as you served us. May our Heavenly Father be with us all in your absence, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.