August 30, 1915 – July 28, 2013
Ida Ruth Miller passed away on Sunday, July 28, 2013. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 1, at Plymouth United Church of Christ, 4126 Ingersoll Ave. in Des Moines, Iowa. Burial will be at Resthaven Cemetery in West Des Moines.
Ida Ruth Younkin Miller was born August 30, 1915 in Montrose, Iowa, the youngest child of William and Mary Younkin. At Ida Ruth’s center were her growing-up years on a pastoral farm in southeast Iowa, with sheep, Jack Creek, and a pasture dotted with wildflowers. She was shaped by the work ethic of her parents, who had high expectations for education and larger visions. Her father, William Younkin: a quiet farmer. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Carrick Younkin: a forward-thinking, ambitious, yet loving woman who was ahead of her time.
Ida Ruth’s mother put her on a train at age 16 and sent her to Iowa State College where she quickly rose to the expectations for success. She was a brilliant student who was homesick for her farm life but went forth with courage.
The highlight of Ida Ruth’s professional resume include writing the the first edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook cover to cover and directing the BHG test kitchen. But that was secondary to the job she was proudest of: Raising a family.
It was in the post-WWII halls of Meredith Corporation where she met the love of her life, Wayne Austin Miller. Together Wayne and Ida Ruth raised Mary Miller, Janny Miller Peterson, Marty Miller Kennedy, and Jane Austin McKeon. The four Miller girls were grounded in family, simple pleasures and education.
After 30 years of a full and beautiful marriage, Ida Ruth’s beloved husband left this earthly world. Her family grew to include 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. And eventually she found a new and meaningful purpose.
The mission of the Miller Nature Trail at Living History Farms was to restore an Iowa woodland with native flora. It brought Ida Ruth together with the dear family of naturalist Sylvan Runkel and his wife Bernie. They shared the common interest of growing and re-introducing native plants to natural areas. Spring Planting Day was Ida Ruth’s resurrection day.
Ida Ruth did not care for her name. Therefore, friends called her other creative alternatives, including Idy, Lissa, Mrs. Wayne A. Miller, Ma, Gram, and her favorite, Mom.
If you were a recipient of Ida Ruth’s letters, you knew you were loved and valued. Nothing fancy. Just carefully crafted, well-honed words on yellow legal pad folded into standard envelopes. But the love and intentional messages were special and cherished by all who received them.
No matter who you were, Ida Ruth would befriend and bring out the best. She liked nothing better than the challenge of tearing down walls and opening the hearts of anyone who crossed her path to make them feel their worth. Ida Ruth had a significant hearing loss for most of her life but she was a gifted listener.
Ida Ruth was a progressive thinker, a champion of civil rights, of personal rights, of validating the worth of all individuals from every walk of life.
She was a voracious reader. Most recently, at age 97, Ida Ruth was reading hefty volumes about the founding fathers. From them, she learned that while we cannot be certain of what comes after this life, we must be open to possibility. If she had to name a higher power, she would call that power “Nature’s God.”
Take a walk in the woods and celebrate the spirit of Ida Ruth Miller. She lives on in our feet and our hands and our hearts.
Ida Ruth is survived her daughters, Mary Miller (Gerry Gjerde), Janny Miller Peterson, Marty Kennedy, and Jane McKeon; her 11 grandchildren, Sarah Brooks, Katie (Adam) Jaskowiak, Hanna Miller Peterson, Benjamin Wayne Peterson, Kelly (Ben) Thomas, Ryan (Rachel) Kennedy, Carly Kennedy, Carrick Austin McKeon, Kevin Lee McKeon, Jayne Nell McKeon, and Grace Miller McKeon; and her five great-grandchildren TK Brooks, Elida Jaskowiak, Miller Thomas, Jameson Thomas, and Harper Kennedy; and her brother Stuart Younkin. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Glenn, and her husband Wayne A. Miller.
Memorials to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for the protection of Iowa’s land, water, and wildlife (www.inhf.org). Online condolences may be shared at IlesCares.com.
ARRANGEMENTS BY ILES FUNERAL HOMES ~ WESTOVER CHAPEL.Information provided by: Iles Funeral Homes Westover Chapel 6337 Hickman Road Des Moines, IA 50322 www.ilesfuneralhomes.com