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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Vivian Frances Burns Ruther

Vivian Frances Burns Ruther passed away Monday, August 31, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She was born on August 16, 1932, at the family home, to Ima Grimm and Rex Burns, Sr. in Rock County, Nebraska. As a teenager, she met a young man at a dance in Bassett, Nebraska and on January 22, 1949, she married F. Keith Ruther. They were married almost 70 years until Keith’s death in 2018.

After their marriage, Keith worked at farming and ranching in Rock County, but it was a hard life with disappointing prospects. So in 1956, Keith and Vivian moved their young family, which now included sons Chuck and Greg, to Derby, Kansas where Keith had found a job with Boeing Airplane Company in Wichita. Vivian went to work at Hinkle’s, a large department store in Wichita, starting as a sales person but soon becoming a department buyer. After 21 years at Hinkle’s, she was employed at Goldsmith Office Supplies as the supply manager until she and Keith retired to Mena, Arkansas in 1989.

Vivian and Keith made many friends in Derby and enjoyed square dancing, clogging and weekends at the nearby lake. They took family vacations to national parks in the west, mostly camping along the way. After the boys were grown, they did a lot of traveling, often with Vivian’s brother Rex, and his wife, Dotty, or her sister Betty and her husband Willis. They visited many parts of the United States and also enjoyed Mexico, Hawaii, and Europe.

Vivian loved animals, especially horses. The family always owned at least one horse and when they moved further out from Wichita to Andover, Kansas, Keith and Vivian bought their first miniature horses. They brought the two tiny horses to Kansas from Nebraska in the back of their van! This was the beginning of KV Miniature Horses, a hobby that turned into a full-fledged business. Vivian was often part of the River Festival Parade in Wichita, driving a specially made buggy pulled by the miniature horses. Vivian and Keith began showing their horses at competitions in Kansas and found they enjoyed this new activity. When they retired and moved to Mena, the care, training and showing of their horses became a new full time job.

KV Miniature Horses became well known around the country as Keith and Vivian entered their horses in national competitions, often in several categories. They took home numerous prizes and awards over the years, including the National Reserve Champion in 1992.

Vivian loved living in the country. She had a large vegetable garden as well as beautiful and varied flower beds. She was always busy doing something; planting, weeding, mowing, cleaning stalls, building fences, feeding and training horses. And of course, she was an excellent cook and kept an immaculate house. She also loved a good cup of coffee at her dining room table while watching the many birds that were attracted to the feeders she carefully placed and filled. Vivian loved parties. She enjoyed the planning and decorating, especially for holidays.

Her deck and yard decorations delighted friends and neighbors who would drive by to see the latest creations.

Her grandchildren love to tell stories of their summer visits. They collected eggs from the chickens, played in the hay barn, loved the barn cats and grandma’s house dogs, and fished in the pond. They especially loved grandma’s homemade cinnamon rolls. But their favorite was riding the miniature horses – until they were too big to do it anymore!

Vivian attended Cherry Hill Gospel Church and appreciated the fellowship she found there. She was involved in church and community activities, often taking the initiative to provide meals for the sick and grieving. Even when she could no longer attend church, she would stay in touch by phone to encourage those who were struggling or had special needs.

Vivian is survived by her sons, Charles (Sandy) of Udall, Kansas and Greg of Salt Lake City, Utah as well as eight granddaughters and 11 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her sisters Leola (Dave, dec.) Johnson, Betty (Willis) Haynes, and Judy Burns. She was predeceased by her husband, Keith, and her brother Rex Burns, Jr. Because of the current conditions caused by the coronavirus, the family will hold a private graveside service on Saturday, September 5 at the Cherry Hill Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Equus Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection of all horses, or the Arkansas Audubon Society at Even though Vivian took all of the recommended precautions, she contracted Covid-19. Her condition deteriorated quickly and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit where she lost her struggle with this insidious disease. The family urges everyone to take this virus seriously and to follow the mandates and guidelines specified by health experts.

Online obituary at

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