OBITUARY: Helen Ruth Jantzen Unruh

NORTH NEWTON—Helen Ruth Jantzen Unruh, beloved mother, wife, aunt, relative and friend, passed away on Feb. 20, 2021, at Salem Home in Hillsboro from complications following a heart attack in January.

Helen Ruth leaves behind her son, Jon of North Newton; her sister-in-law, Anne Koch Jantzen; nieces and nephews, Steve (Janis), Karen (Leon), Ron (Jeri), Bob (Ani), Don (Damaris), Dan (Deb), Lisa (Tim), Kristine and Franz (Jean); close cousins, Marjorie and Jeanette (Steve), and her many friends at Kidron Bethel Village and beyond.

She was preceded in death by her loving husband of 63 years, Robert Unruh, in 2016, and by her brothers and three spouses: Richard and Hilda, Ted and Maureen, Paul and Elaine, and Carl.

Ruth was born Aug. 21, 1929, to Jacob and Helen Jantzen in Beatrice, Neb.   She grew up with her four brothers at their home on the west edge of Beatrice and had fond memories of playing together in the pasture behind the Lonesome Ridge country school, which they attended.   After 9th and 10th grade at Mennonite Bible Academy, she graduated from Beatrice High School.  She was baptized in 1944 at Beatrice Mennonite Church, where she played piano as a young girl.

Ruth graduated in 1953 from Bethel College, where she met Robert Unruh. They were married June 19, 1953.  Ruth taught one year at Maple Hill elementary school in rural Marion County before the Unruh’s moved to Kingman.  In Kingman County, she taught elementary school music in Spivey and Ninnescah schools. In Lehigh and Kingman, Ruth established a piano teaching studio, while Robert worked for the U.S. Postal Service and as a piano tuner.  It was in Kingman that Ruth and Bob welcomed their son, Jon, into their home.  Both Bob and Jon enjoyed singing in choirs over the years.

In 1987, the Unruh’s moved to Hutchinson, where Ruth played piano and organ at First Mennonite Church in Hutchinson and also accompanied choirs.  In 2006, they moved to Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton and joined the Bethel College Mennonite Church.  Bob and Ruth greatly enjoyed their new community and church, where Ruth was involved with the organ committee, a women’s circle program committee and worked as a volunteer at the Kauffman Museum.  In 2013, Bob entered the nursing unit and passed away in 2016.  In 2019, Ruth moved into Assisted Living, and that September, celebrated her 90th birthday with an open house and a gathering of many relatives and friends.

Ruth loved family, friends and music.  She credited her father with introducing her to a wide range of political and religious ideas, and her mother to German chorales, poetry and nature.  She cherished childhood memories of winter evenings by the wood stove where her father would read aloud while her mother carved miniature birds. Ruth’s own spiritual pilgrimage nurtured both a strong faith and an appreciation for mystery in life. In 2016, she closed her Christmas card with her own wise words, “Into this unsettled world comes God’s quiet.”

In keeping with one of Ruth’s favorite lines of Scripture, “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalms 96:1), donations in her memory can be made to the Organ Fund at Bethel College Mennonite; (please put “organ fund” in the memo line) or Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Contributions may be sent to Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, 120 E. Broadway, Newton, Kan., 67114.

A committal service will be held graveside Thursday, April 8, at 2 p.m. in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton.

Condolences may be left at

Arrangements are by Broadway Colonial Funeral Home, Newton.

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