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Coming Home


By Lenora Sumsky

Ruth Proft Dannehl, who was born in Mena in 1918, is coming home. A memorial service celebrating her life will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church on DeQueen Street at 1:00 pm on Sunday, October 18th. Family, friends, and community members will gather for the service in the church where Ruth was baptized and where her father, Martin Henry Proft, served as organist.

Ruth was a 1936 graduate of Mena High School and left Mena to attend junior college at St. John’s in Winfield, Kansas. She earned her nursing degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and her master’s degree in Education from the University of Minnesota. During her long and distinguished professional career, Ruth was a medical missionary and teacher in Kowloon, Hong Kong for over a decade and was professor of nursing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota for nearly twenty years.

She dedicated her life to serving others. She was a lifelong volunteer for community, educational, and religious organizations. Even as an octogenarian, Ruth served as an English tutor to Chinese students who attended local universities. In addition, she was a crisis pregnancy counselor, and neighborhood reading volunteer. Ruth also helped establish a barter service exchange program in her local community.

Ruth passed away in 2010 and donated her body to the Medical School at the University of Minnesota. Her ashes will be interred at a family plot at the White Oak Cemetery in Mena following the memorial service.

Relatives who will attend the service will travel from as far as north as Minnesota and Wisconsin, as far east as Connecticut, and as far west as California. Ruth’s nephew, Rev. Gerald Schalk of Illinois, will preside at the service. Nieces and grandnieces will perform readings and songs during the service. Mary Dixon, of Mena, will serve as organist.

“With so many relatives coming together in Mena to celebrate Ruth’s life, we decided to simultaneously hold a weekend family reunion,” said Florence Proft, Ruth’s sister-in-law, who is a Mena resident.

During the weekend, relatives plan to visit several historic sites in and around Mena including Janssen Park and the Mena Train Depot. They will also tour the “old” Proft homestead on Hornbeck Avenue, where Ruth and her siblings were raised. Ruth’s brother, Walter Proft of St. Paul, Minnesota will guide and narrate the tour.

Family members are looking forward to remembering Ruth, whose life of service humbly began in Mena nearly a century ago.

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