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Ruth Eleanor Martin Parks, 100, of Macomb, formerly of Blandinsville passed away at 7:55 a.m. Saturday, May 25, 2019 at Wesley Village Healthcare Center in Macomb.
Ruth was born in Wahpeton, North Dakota on December 29, 1918, to Edward Theodore (E.T.) and Jane (Jennie) Grigsby Martin, but lived most of her life on the family farm near Blandinsville, Illinois. She began her teaching career at age 19 at Starr Commonwealth, a private school for boys in Albion, Michigan, and then returned to Illinois Wesleyan University to complete her degree in 1942. She later received her Masters degree from Western Illinois University.
During World War II, Ruth worked for the U.S. Army Special Services Department as Assistant Director of social activities on army bases. This is how she met her future husband, Ken, who was serving with the military police at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.
After the military years, they returned to Blandinsville where Ken began farming and Ruth started her teaching career, first in Blandinsvlle and El Paso, Illinois, and eventually, as the choral director for Macomb High School for 24 years.
After retiring from teaching in 1981, Ruth began a second, 25-year career as director of the Spoon River Singing Seniors, a popular group that performed all over the region. Even after her second retirement, Ruth always kept busier than most people, and as she said, could never pass a piano without stopping to play it. In her recent years, first at Grand Prairie, and more recently at Wesley Village, she loved to lead the sing-alongs, always trying to make everyone’s day brighter. During much of her life, she also served as organist for her home church, the First Baptist Church of Blandinsville, a position she held for 57 years.
Ruth received many honors and awards over the years:
In 1993 she was admitted to the Gallery of Ageless Achievers by the WIU Area on Aging. In 1994 and 2016, she was one of the Grand Marshalls for Macomb Heritage Days Parade.
In 1998, she was named one of the area’s "Living Treasures" by WGEM TV.
In 2004 she was recognized by the collegiate Music Educators National Conference for outstanding contribution to music in our schools.
In 2006 she was nominated for the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Lifelong Learning award.
In 2016, she was recognized as one of the winners of the McDonough County "Quality of Life" award, given to those who improve the quality of life in the community.
Ruth Parks was preceded in death by her husband, Kenneth Parks, and two sisters, Martha (Wayne) Martin and Helen (Everett) Herzog. She is survived by two sons, Steve (Jan) Parks, St. Joseph, MO, and David Parks, Freeport, Illinois, three grandchildren, Martin (Kimberly) Parks, New Braunfels, TX, Paul (Stacy) Parks, Overland Park, KS, and Robin (Dan) Huff, Eldon, MO, 10 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren.
Ruth Parks was a joy to everyone she knew, and brightened the day of everyone she met.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday May 31, 2019 at the First Baptist Church in Macomb with Reverend Dean Reeverts officiating. Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Clugston-Tibbitts Funeral Home in Macomb. Burial will be in Glade City Cemetery in Blandinsville.
Memorials may be made to Wesley Village.