STEVENS POINT—Ruth Elizabeth (Swan) Steffen passed away Dec. 5, 2019, at the age of 94. She was born Oct. 29, 1925, in Marion, Ohio, to the Reverend Dr. Alfred Wilson and Eva (Castner) Swan. Her family moved to Greeley, Colo. in the summer of 1927, when her father became the minister at Parkland Congregational Church. In the fall of 1930 they moved to Madison, Wis. where her father served as minister of the First Congregational Church for 35 years. While in Madison, Wis., Ruth attended Randall Grade School, West Junior and Senior High School. Ruth graduated from West Senior High School in 1943. She attended Wooster College in Ohio and graduated from UW-Madison in 1947, earning a BA in Social Work. She married the Reverend Warren Richard (Dick) Steffen June 8, 1946. They were married for 58 years before Dick passed away in 2005. They had five children and Dick served as minister at churches while living in Elgin, Harvey, Elizabeth and Sandwich, Ill. Then Dick was the Wesley Foundation Director at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and UW-Stevens Point where they settled in Oct. 1963 to raise their family. He then requested to be appointed in the Madison area so Ruth could attend the UW-Madison to work on her Doctorate while he was minister. He was appointed to Marshall, Wis. (1976-79). Then Dick continued his pastoral duties in Rothschild, Wis. (1979-84), Mosinee, Wis. and Schofield, Wis. (1984-87) before returning to retire in Stevens Point, Wis. in 1987.
Ruth was a librarian at the UW-Stevens Point. She started as a limited term employee in October 1963 and was a faculty member from 1965 to her retirement in 1995. She attended the University of Minnesota from 1962-63, then UW-Madison from 1965-69 earning a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 1969. Ruth furthered her education by attending UW-Madison from 1976-79 and earning a Specialist degree in Library Science from UW-Madison in 1976. She worked as a cataloger, reference librarian, documents librarian and instructor. A wide range of interests led Ruth into active participation in almost every area of library and university life. She was a member or chair of most library and many university committees. In related professional organizations, TAUWP (The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals), Women in Higher Education, UW-SP University Women and Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians she was an active participant. In 1992 she received the UW-SP University Service Award. The same year Ruth was one of twenty-three women recognized during “A Century of Creativity: Celebrating Women’s Achievements” in the Stevens Point area during the last one hundred years.
When Ruth retired, she became a member of the Stevens Point Area Retired Teachers Association. Ruth began helping at the semi-annual book sale in the fall of 1995. In the fall of 1999 she assumed responsibility for organizing the workers for the sale. She continued to be very involved with the sale until 2012.
Ruth and Dick became involved with activities at Lincoln Center. She taught a class on genealogy for several semesters. They particularly enjoyed a class in “Writing Your Life Story” which should be encouraged for all retirees. Ruth volunteered at the Holly Shoppe in the Lincoln Center.
Ruth and Dick trained as certified leaders in Marriage Enrichment Incorporated and ACME (Association of Couples for Marriage Enrichment). All workshops and training are designed to help couples learn how to communicate better. The Steffens attended workshops around the country and conducted several weekend workshops in Wisconsin.
Ruth was a member of the League of Women Voters since 1965. She held many offices over the years. Assisting in redistricting after 1990 and 2000 were some of her contributions. She was the moderator at several of the League Candidate Forums. Voter services and supporting and encouraging good schools were important to her.
Ruth was an avid genealogist since the early 1960s and active in many societies since the 1970s, participating in regional, state and national conferences. She often gave presentations at area societies. She also taught classes in genealogy at regional campuses and locally at Lincoln Center. She served as secretary for the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society from 1988-2004. She was the president of the Stevens Point Area Genealogical Society from 1993-2005.
Ruth was a member of the Stevens Point Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution being admitted in October 2009.
Ruth became a member of P.E.O. Chapter AX in 1947 in Madison, Wis. PEO is an international women’s philanthropic educational organization that provides grants and loans to women, including foreign and non-traditional students to complete their education. She was P.E.O. Chapter CB’s President from 1967-1969 and 1987-1988 in Stevens Point.
Ruth was a member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church since 1963. She served on district and state committees as well as serving on the local committee for Wills and Memorials and chair of the Committee on Social Principals of the United Methodist Church. She was treasurer of the United Methodist Women and a member of the Elizabeth Circle.
Ruth enjoyed sewing, needlecrafts, reading and jigsaw puzzles. She also enjoyed collecting swans, nativities, salt and pepper shakers, decorated eggs and spoons from every place they traveled to (having traveled to all 48 contiguous states, Europe and China).
Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, husband, two brothers-in-law (Dr. Robert Reuman and Dr. Gordon Garnett) and a son-in-law (Stephen Stavar).
She is survived by two sisters, Jeanne Garnett, Madison, Wis. and Dorothy Reuman, West Hartford, Conn.; and five children, Frederick (Catherine) Steffen, Stevens Point, Wis.; Keith Steffen, Blanchardville, Wis.; Christine Stavar, Cranberry Township, Pa., Elizabeth Laswell, Madison, Wis. and Kathleen (Jeffrey) Werner, Oconto, Wis. She has 11 grandchildren, Frederick (Sarah) Steffen II, Shakopee, Minn.; Sara (Tony) Jarabek, Stevens Point, Wis.; Jonathan (Sarah) Steffen, Stevens Point, Wis.; Danielle Risley, Monticello, Wis.; David (Gabriela) Steffen, Verona, Wis.; Stephen (Courtney) Stavar, Morgantown, W.Va., Rebecca (Jason) Gant, Beaver Falls, Pa.; Ryan (Samantha) Laswell, Sheboygan, Wis., Keagan (Kelsey) Laswell, Madison, Wis.; Jennifer Werner, Chicago, Ill., and Matthew Werner, Oakland, Calif. She also has 15 great-grandchildren: Meghan, Frederick III and Audrey Steffen, Shakopee, Minn., Emily and Noah Jarabek, Stevens Point, Wis., Jonathan and Jameson Steffen, Stevens Point, Wis., Ashley and Alexandria Risley, Monticello, Wis., Nicolás Steffen, Verona, Wis., Edith and Stephen Stavar, Morgantown, W.Va., Finnleigh and Elowen Laswell, Sheboygan, Wis., and Kaiya Laswell, Madison, Wis. Ruth is further survived by many nieces and nephews.
Ruth has resided at Maplewood Assisted Living in Plover, Wis. for the past 3½ years. She has been under the care of Heartland Hospice. The family wishes to thank both the staffs at Maplewood Assisted Living and Heartland Hospice for the kind, compassionate and loving care given her.
A Celebration of Life service will be conducted at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Stevens Point, Wis. on Jan. 11, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. with Reverend Tim O’Brien officiating. Visitation will be at the church from 9:00 until the time of service.
In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to contribute to Wills and Memorials at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, P.E.O., Chapter CB or a charity of their choice.
The family is grateful to the Boston Funeral Home who is assisting them.