Our community has lost one of its most cherished residents, as Ruby Doris Wilkie, 90, passed away on August 17th at her home in Duvall.
Ruby Wilkie volunteered regularly at Cherry Valley Elementary. Courtesy photo.
It would truly be possible to fill the entire edition of any of our local papers with quotes and stories of the adoration, love and inspiration felt by those whose lives have been touched (from Duvall, Washington to El Salvador) by Ruby Wilkie. "Nana" as she was affectionately known by so many, will be deeply missed but most definitely not forgotten.
Ruby was born May 21, 1921, in Puyallup, Washington, the daughter of John and Bertha Petersen. She attended Woodland Elementary School, Puyallup High School and Lincoln High School in Tacoma. She accepted Jesus Christ as her savior at an early age and attended Puyallup Assembly of God.
Ruby often sang specials in church along with sisters Alice and Edna with their father playing the guitar.
In 1940, when she was 19, Ruby married Earl Wilkie and joined him in pastoring the Assemblies of God church in Metaline Falls, Washington. In 1941 Earl and Ruby went to El Salvador as Assemblies of God missionaries.
Their first son, John, was born in Guatemala in 1943. Their second son, Owen, was born in Puyallup during their first itineration in 1945. In 1946 they transferred as missionaries to Bolivia where they were one of the three couples that pioneered the Assemblies of God in that country. They served there until 1957. Their third son, Bill, was born in Bolivia in 1951. Their fourth son, Dan, was born in 1958 in Puyallup.
Ruby and Earl spent their last term on the mission field in Uruguay from 1960 through 1964. During their years on the mission field Ruby worked extensively with the children and women in the churches they pastored and taught in the Bible schools. While on the mission field she homeschooled her children. Earl and Ruby left a legacy in Latin America that is still being felt today. As an example, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in El Salvador, Jeremias Anaya, recently wrote: "We hope that someone can tell Ruby that the years she and her beloved husband worked in El Salvador were not wasted. They left part of their lives here with us. They form part of the history of the Assemblies of God of El Salvador. May God bless our Sister Ruby."
In early August, Jesus da Cuña, the superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Uruguay, called Ruby. He told her: "The work that you did continues on and you are remembered with much affection. Many people ask about you. It was worth your effort. We remember you and are grateful for the good work you did."
After retiring from missionary service, Earl, Ruby and family settled in Kirkland so they could be near Northwest College where John and Owen went to school. They attended Kirkland Assembly of God for many years and were involved in the church ministry there. For several years Earl and Ruby drove school bus for the Bellevue School District.
Earl passed away in 1987. Shortly after that Ruby moved with Dan, Sharon and family to Duvall, where they built an apartment attached to their house for Ruby. She began attending Stillwater Hill Community Church and became active in the church in several ways including leading a ladies Bible study. In 1994 she became a volunteer at Cherry Valley Elementary School in Duvall, where she worked two and a half days a week helping the children with their reading and in other ways. She continued volunteering at the school until May of this year.
Preceding her in death were her parents, John and Bertha Petersen, a brother, Ray Petersen, and a sister, Edna Crodle.
Ruby is survived by sister Alice Neeley and her husband, Gene, of Puyallup; son John Wilkie and his wife, Mary Ann, of Boise, Idaho; son Owen Wilkie and his wife, Beverly, of Springfield, Missouri; son Bill Wilkie and his wife, Pauline, of Bremerton, Washington; son Dan Wilkie and his wife, Sharon, from Duvall, Washington; eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been set up at Latin America Child Care, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802, "in memory of Ruby Wilkie."
A loving acknowledgment of Ruby’s service to others and the difference it continues to make around the world is shared in a beautiful story written by her grandson Matt who continues her legacy as a missionary himself. His story and cherished photos can be found at the following link: www.aroundtheworldwithjesus.com.
Cherry Valley Elementary secretary Sally Sanden shared the following regarding Ruby’s long and selfless volunteer career at Cherry Valley Elementary which spanned 17 years.
"Ruby Wilkie – ‘Nana’ as she was known to us all, has been a part of the Cherry Valley community since 1994 when her granddaughter Janelle began kindergarten. She was one of the sweetest, most gentle people there ever was, always having something positive to say to all of the children. Nana became a dear friend to all of our staff who had the blessed privilege of working with her. I appreciated the comfort of knowing I could share a personal concern with her and ask for her prayers and I knew that she would indeed seek the Lord for me.
"Ruby spent countless hours reading with, encouraging, supporting, inspiring and loving hundreds of Cherry Valley students during these many years. Even after her own grandchildren graduated from Cherry Valley she continued to volunteer; working often with our Spanish speaking students, as she was fluent in this language. She was also very helpful to many of our Spanish speaking students and their families, even interpreting for them during parent/teacher conferences.
"I am thankful that the Lord was willing to let Ruby bless us with so many years of her gifts of encouragement and support and sweet love for children and staff! We will miss Nana so very much."
Another longtime employee of Cherry Valley, Patty Andrus, shared the following tribute during the memorial service...
"Because Nana was fluent in Spanish, she became a wonderful resource for those children who had English as a second language. Often they would come to us with no knowledge of English, and here was this beautiful grandmother, speaking to them in their native tongue making them feel understood, validated, accepted and cared for.
"Most times these children left behind all friends and extended family and in Nana they had someone to love and watch over them here. She was invaluable to the teachers as she helped to translate during conferences making sure that what was said was truly understood. She even went along with the ECEAP staff on their home visits as they reached out to their families. What an unselfish blessing to the community this woman was."
As she read to and listened to the children read to her, no matter what their skill level, they always felt better about themselves. In Mrs. Armstrong’s 2nd grade classroom every child was given the chance to read with Nana each year and it was a coveted opportunity. It was a great privilege and honor to get a chance to read with Nana. For example, last year one 4th grade boy who loves to play turned down his earned "free choice time" explaining to his teacher that he really would rather "read with Nana."
Youth Pastor Nate Lowe, from the Stillwater Hill Community Church, often referred to Ruby as the "Mother Teresa of Duvall"... so truly and beautifully said. What a blessing it has been for each of us to have known and loved Ruby Wilkie. She has left her faithful, loving mark on all of our hearts and has shown us what it genuinely means to share the abundance of God’s love.
Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us. In all likelihood, it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed, other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another’s life had been made better.
–Stephen M. Wolf