Editor’s note: Each Monday, the Kenosha News takes a look at the life of a Kenosha County resident who recently died. We share with you, through the memories of family and friends, a life remembered.
Ruth Schroeder served her country, her family and her church.
She enlisted in the U.S. Navy as one of the women accepted for voluntary emergency service (WAVES) during World War II and later worked for the Department of Corrections in Elkhorn and in Kenosha County.
At her funeral she received military honors with a 10-gun salute. “They said it was the first time they had done one for a woman,” said Ruth’s son, Craig Schroeder.
Loved dogs, cats
Ruth also had a soft spot for rescued dogs and cats, sometimes training them to do tricks like jumping over a yardstick or “playing the piano.”
“She was a loving mom to her kids and grandson and a mother to all types of animals,” Craig said.
Ruth Ellen Schroeder, 95, a resident of Kenosha, died March 25 at Brookside Care Center. Ruth is survived by her children, Craig Schroeder and Laurie (Randy) Harnack, and a grandson, Daniel Harnack.
Ruth was born on Oct. 11, 1923, in Kenosha to Arvid and Ellen Johnson. She graduated from Bradford High School in 1941, attended Gateway Technical Institute and worked for a while at Johns-Manville in Waukegan, Ill.
In August 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Navy Women’s Reserve Act into law, and Ruth joined, serving as one of the WAVES from November 1942 through May 1946. She attended boot camp at the naval training camp in Bronx, N.Y., and yeoman school in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Her reason for joining the Navy, said her son, was “patriotism.”
Ruth and her sister, June, became WAVES at the same time. A naval recruitment missive issued by the naval procurement office in Chicago stated that, after Ruth and June completed their yeoman training, they reported to the Navy radio school, Hugh Manley, where Ruth was the “Liberty Yeoman in the Master-at-Arms Office.” Her job duties were clerical and secretarial. Ruth later went on to postings in St. Louis, Chicago and Great Lakes Naval Base in Waukegan.
Before her adventures as one of the WAVES began, however, Ruth met Alvin Schroeder while attending a dance with friends at the Eagles ballroom in Racine. They dated, and he proposed to her, said Laurie. Rather than marrying right away, however, she joined the WAVES. “She wanted to see if he would wait for her, and he did,” she said.
Ruth and Alvin married Aug. 3, 1946, settled in Kenosha and had two children.
While her children were young, Ruth worked part-time as a bookkeeper for her brother’s construction company, Arnold Johnson Construction, and for the state unemployment office.
In the early 1970s, the family moved to Elkhorn for a period of six years. There, Ruth worked in the probation and parole department for the Department of Corrections. When the family returned to Kenosha, she began working for the Kenosha County Department of Corrections, also in probation and parole.
A great cook
Off the clock, Ruth enjoyed cooking, music and participating in the life of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
“She was the best cook and baker I ever met,” Laurie said.
At the holidays, Ruth broke out her favorite recipes to honor her Swedish heritage.
“Every Christmas Eve she made Swedish meatballs. She also made Scandinavian cake, spritz cookies and potato sausage,” Laurie said.
At St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Ruth sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and accompanied the organist on piano.
“She loved music; it was a big part of her life,” Laurie said.
She also loved her pets.
“Right into her 90s she was still walking her dog, Ben, using her walker. The dog would go as slow as she could walk, which wasn’t very fast,” Craig said.
She even introduced her animals to music.
“Mom taught her dogs to ‘play the piano,’” Laurie said. “There was a beagle and a pit bull mix she taught to jump on the piano bench and put their paws on the keyboard.”
After Alvin died, Ruth, then 61, continued working. She retired at age 74 after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She was a very hard worker, and she didn’t let anything get her down,” Laurie said.
She didn’t travel much outside of Kenosha, preferring to stay close to home, Craig said. Instead, she enjoyed spending time with family, especially her grandson, Danny.
In addition to weekly family dinners with her daughter and grandson, there were trips to the Jelly Belly factory in Kenosha and annual holiday treks to Chicago to see the holiday lights along State Street.
“She made the best effort to be part of (Danny’s) life and make life special for him,” Laurie said.
“She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother who had a deep faith and was well-liked by everybody,” Craig said.