Ruth De Vries
May 11, 1940 – July 23, 2020
Ruth (Jacobsma) De Vries passed away on July 23, 2020, at her home in the Almaden Valley are of San Jose, California, at the age of 80. She will be laid to rest within the De Vries Family Plot at East Lawn Cemetery, Sheldon, Iowa. Arrangements are with Vander Ploeg Funeral Home, and a service will be held at First Reformed Church in Sheldon on Saturday, August 15, 2020 at 10:00 A.M.
Ruth Jacobsma was born on the family farm near Boyden, Iowa, on May 11, 1940. Her parents were Henry and Tracy Mae (Van Zandbergen) Jacobsma. She had one brother to welcome her to the family, Dave. Ruth’s parents and brother preceded her in death, and welcomed her once again, this time in Heaven.
Her family farm, “the first place north of the Boyden Cemetery,” was a special place, built and farmed by her Dad, Henry, a very exceptional and talented farmer. Henry called “Ruthie” his little “Malted Milk Ball,” and they shared a special bond. Her farm house would not have indoor plumbing until she was 18, and each morning Henry would awake at 4:00 A.M., including in the wintertime, when he would descend into the basement to stoke the furnace with corn cobs or coal so that his wife and children would be a little more warm when they woke up. Then he went out for morning chores. Dave and Ruthie would soon follow, every morning.
Ruth also loved animals from the time she was born on the farm. When milking cows every morning as a little girl, the kittens in the barn would line up for her to get a squirt from the cow’s udder – a few squirts into the bucket, and one into the open mouth of each kitten – she was a good aim. Her Dad watched and smiled. She and her brother, Dave, shared a pony “Buddy,” and in the winter time they would hook Buddy up to a sleigh and see how fast they could go on the frozen creek which ran near their farm. Each dog on the farm was named “Pal.” There were therefor many successive Pals on the farm over the years, and a “Pal Cemetery” was located behind the barn.
Her daily chores included feeding the chickens, cattle, and pigs, even in sub-zero Northwest Iowa winters. In the warmer months, she would gather eggs from the chicken coup for use at home, and the extras she would take to town to sell. This “egg money” she put in a little pocket of her dress for candy: at the time she thought her Dad might be unaware, but later she realized that once again he saw, and smiled. She also helped by driving tractor and other equipment during the growing and harvest seasons and, like her Dad, she was good at it. When a neighbor would come to ask Henry if they could borrow a piece of equipment, the loan included Ruth as the operator. In high school, she tried to turn this into a positive by working on her tan, and often her schoolmates would jump onto her tractor to work on their tan, too.
Ruth attended grammar school in Boyden and graduated from high school as a “Boyden Bomber” in 1958, where she was active in sports, cheerleading, music, and other activities. With regard to sports, she was a formidable athlete, not only because of her natural talent, but also because she was ambidextrous and could bat right or left, throw a softball with either hand with equal velocity, and shoot a basketball with either hand, too. Ruth especially exceled in music and played 5 instruments in the band artfully, including “first chair” trumpet. Her love of music would follow her to California and be an integral part of her life for the rest of her days, filling the home in Almaden with music as she sat at her piano daily playing and singing.
During her high school years, Ruth also met and later married her high school sweetheart, Don De Vries, who lived in nearby Sheldon in earlier days and later in Orange City. Don’s only objection to dating this beautiful, talented girl from Boyden was that for each date, he would wash his Dad’s black 1946 Chevy, only to have it be covered in dust by the time he picked her up near the gravel road that led to the farm. They were married at the First Reformed Church in Boyden on August 28, 1959, after both attended Northwestern College in Orange City for one year.
During the Orange City years, Ruth was chosen as Attendant for the 1959 Tulip Festival, a position which of course she fulfilled with her signature beauty and grace. She also worked at the Village Drug, where she met many new friends from the Sioux County community. Customers at the Village Drug loved her. She naturally sang in the Northwestern Choir, along with Don, including choir tour engagements on the East Coast and singing in the Trinity Reformed Church choir in Orange City.
The couple later moved their mobile home to Iowa City where Don was a student at the University of Iowa. During their tenure in Iowa City, Ruth worked in the ophthalmology department of the University of Iowa Hospitals, where she served as an administrative assistant to the ophthalmologists. Ruth took pride in the fact that when she left, they had to hire 3 people to take her place.
Following Iowa City days, the couple with the help of Don’s parents moved their mobile home to Newport, Rhode Island, where Don attended Naval Officer Candidate School to become a Naval officer. Don accepted his commission as a Naval officer and served as an Ensign aboard the U.S.S. Paul Revere. Ruth gave birth to their first son, Danny Joe De Vries, in Orange City, Iowa, on June 15, 1964, while her husband Don was in the Philippine Islands on the Paul Revere. Following his duties at sea, Don and Ruth settled in at Chula Vista, California, near San Diego, while Don served at the North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado on shore duty.
After the Navy commitment was fulfilled and enjoying California winters without snow and below-freezing temperatures, Ruth and Don decided to stay in California. They moved north to San Jose where Ruth resumed her academic studies, and Don attended law school at the University of Santa Clara. Ruth finished her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969 which she received from san Jose State University, the same year Don graduated from law school. It was quite a weekend in June 1969 when both Ruth and Don obtained university degrees during the same weekend. Rather unique and special.
Second son, James Ryan De Vries (“Jamie”), came along on October 22, 1971. He was born in Los Gatos, California. Jamie graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara and is now a high school economics teacher in Santa Barbara. He founded “Kids Helping Kids,” a charitable organization whereby his high school economics students have raised over a million dollars for underprivileged children in their community and around the world. Following in his mother’s footsteps, and drawing upon her inspiration, Jamie has made quite a name for himself as an educator, including being named “Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year,” one year, among other accolades – just like his Mom.
Ruth earned her Teaching Credential from the State of California on October 6, 1975. Not satisfied with just that, she went on to obtain a master’s degree in Elementary Education in 1977, also from San Jose State University.
During Ruth’s 34-year teaching career, she taught first graders at Stonegate Elementary School in Room C-4. One year she was awarded the “Teacher of the Year” in this exceptionally large, San Francisco Bay Area district. During her tenure, she specifically focused on first graders because of what she viewed as the amazing opportunity to teach littles ones to read. And she was always overjoyed when those same students would come back many years later to thank her; having graduated from schools like Stanford, UC Berkeley, and others. “You were the one who taught me to read,” they would say. This gave her insurmountable joy. Ruth retired from teaching on June 11, 2004.
During the same 34-year span, Ruth was the Director of Music for many years at the Church of the Chimes, Reformed Church in America, in San Jose. Leading the adult choir at the Church of the Chimes included regular choral anthems on Sunday mornings and special productions at Christmas and many other special occasions. Choir members loved her, including her husband Don who sang in the choir and whom she coached at home around the family piano. In addition, she was also a Sunday School and Vacation Bible School Teacher with first graders and many other children under her care.
Family activities during the Almaden days also included many family trips and other activities, such as trips to Europe, including the “home country” of the Netherlands, to the east coast, to many national parks, and annual trips back home to Iowa to see family and friends.
Ruth and Don had the special gift to live in the same house for 50 years; they had it built in 1970. It was a great blessing that Ruth was allowed by her Creator to leave this earth pain free while remaining in the family home.
Ruth will be remembered in several ways, including her ever-present, beautiful, and infectious smile, positive attitude, and cooperative spirit. People of all ages loved her: not only her family, but store clerks, checkers at the grocery store, waiters at any given restaurant, and anyone she would bump into along the way. She had many, many friends who will all miss her greatly. Ruth made them all feel special and like family. It was impossible to be around her without smiling.
As to the cause of death, one of the factors was dementia, or Alzheimer’s, which, among other things, prevented her physicians from performing a life-saving procedure to cure a serious heart ailment because the likely risks outweighed the probable benefits. In the end, we believe her beautiful heart just gave out. Her friends and family are, also, far too familiar with her battles with cancer over the years – breast cancer twice, hysterectomy, and abdominal cancer most recently – but she courageously and successfully fought through all battles each time until the end.
Survivors include Don, her loving husband of nearly 61 years; their 2 sons, Dan and Jamie and their wives; their five grandchildren, Silas, Ellie, Benjy, Paisley, and Finley; and 2 great-grandsons, Tanner and Kade.
She gave from her heart and treasured each relationship in her life greatly. She was a devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin, and friend.
Although her physical heart may have given out during the early morning of July 23rd, the true heart of Ruth (Jacobsma) De Vries from Boyden, Iowa, lives on in each of us who were lucky and blessed enough to be touched by her, in big and small ways.