Ruth Birgit Welker, age 96, passed away peacefully at her home in Healdsburg on December 27, 2020 from bladder cancer with family members at her side.
Ruth was born on June 5, 1924, in Kempten, Germany, to Albert and Maria Rosenthal. Kempten was an idyllic town in the region of the mountains in Allgau, close to the Alps. She grew up in a busy household. Her father was a physician. Her family was very musical. Guests were often in their home, and she and her 3 siblings entertained them with singing and piano music. Her 2 brothers played the violin. She loved to be in the town's concert choir and to play in a violin group. After elementary school and attending a girls school, she was enrolled in the scientific scholastic department as preparation for continued studies at college and university. Her special love was to pursue music and language studies. At an early age she wrote her own little imaginary stories and poems to express herself, which she was still doing into her mid-to-late 80s.
Ruth's family was in great danger in the 1930s and 1940s. She was a Holocaust survivor whose father was of Jewish descent, but had converted to Christianity years earlier, shortly after marriage. Although her mother was German, they still faced many restrictions, including pursuing higher education and marrying. However, she was still able to complete her studies and then, after graduation, joined her family in Munich, where her father had been treating Jewish people in barracks, a job he was fortunately given permission to hold by the Nazi government until the end of the war. In Munich, Ruth was required to work in a great war factory, taking dictations in shorthand, typing, etc., and communicating in French with some workers. Later she and her sister were assigned to clean streetcars outside of Munich under inspection and control of the Gestapo. With the arrival of American troops her fears of being sent to a concentration camp were finally over, although she lost most of her aunts and uncles.
After the war Ruth's family returned to Kempten. Her father could again take up his medical profession and she helped assist him for some time. Following that, she worked in dental laboratories, receiving her certificate from the Dental Institute, Munich. After marriage to Hans Welker in 1952, Ruth immigrated to the United States with her husband in 1953, via Ellis Island, stopping briefly in Hackensack, New Jersey, and then spending 5 years in Deer River, Minnesota, before moving to California and Healdsburg in 1958.
They moved to Dry Creek Valley in 1959 into the new house Hans, a carpenter, had built, where Ruth lived for the next 60 years, before spending the final year and a half of her life part-time in various assisted living locations (but still part-time at home).
Ruth and her husband were members of the Healdsburg SDA church and Ruth's faith played a central role in her life until her death. She was always most grateful and openly expressed how she credited God for his providential care and guidance in her life. She never seemed to have any bitterness about her past.
In 1968 she was called to teach German II at Rio Lindo Academy along the Russian River in Healdsburg, which gave her the incentive to pursue additional studies, and kept alive her long buried dream. During ensuing years, as she attended SRJC and SSU part-time, she took up several part-time jobs, including doing social work for the elderly, delivering and selling farm goods for the family mushroom farm, working at the tutor centers of the college and university, and helping people with German and French homework and music-theory. She also taught piano privately and helped vocal students at the university with translations of German and French, tutoring pronunciation, diction, and vocal expression. In 1988 at the age of nearly 64 she graduated from SSU cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction in Music and a Minor in French. She became a very avid writer of poetry late in life, publishing 3 small books of poems in 2003, 2005, and 2011, as well as an autobiography in 2017 called "Under the Shadows" of her life experiences including some of her favorite poetry and also a short song she composed.
She is preceded in death by her parents, her siblings Elfrieda, Gunther and Fred, and her husband Hans. She is survived by her children Edwin, Gordon, and Irwin, and a number of nieces and nephews in Germany.
She was an incredibly kind, caring and gentle person, a loving mother, devoted church member and neighbor, and took a great interest in those around her. One of her special hobbies was to draw roses and she adorned many of her letters and notes with these.
Following a small set of musical selections played in her honor at an outdoor church service at the Healdsburg SDA Church, and at a formal funeral service held in her memory at the Eggen & Lance Chapel in Santa Rosa in January, she was laid to rest at Oak Mound Cemetery after a small private ceremony.
Ruth wrote that her heart has always gone out for the poor and needy, and requested that if anyone would like to make a donation to her memory, she would like it to be for the Healdsburg Ministries.