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1921 Ruth 2020

Ruth Overgaard Brewer

July 4, 1921 — December 9, 2020

It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death of Ruth Overgaard Brewer at age 99 on December 9, 2020.

Ruth was born on July 4, 1921 in Ashby, MN to her loving parents Gust and Ella, in a farmhouse built by her father. Her father’s parents immigrated from Norway and lived in a house next door. She was the fourth child in a family of eight, and the first daughter.

In many ways, Ruth’s early years mirrored the experiences of Laura Ingalls Wilder, as described in her book “Little House on the Prairie”. While life on the northern prairie could be difficult, Ruth often fondly recalled assisting her mother in preparing meals on a wood-burning stove; making and ironing the family’s clothes; and playing a pump-organ with her Aunt Inga. She went to school in a one-room schoolhouse; and in the wintertime, would ride with her family in a horse-drawn sleigh to church, placing hot rocks under the blankets to stay warm in the sub-zero temperatures.

Ruth was sweet and quite shy, but she was also strong and independent; with an adventurous streak and a life-long love of learning. Upon graduating from Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls, MN in 1939, Ruth piled into a car with friends and drove off to New York City, where she worked as a live-in nanny for several months. During WW II, she moved to Seattle and lived with an older brother, while working at Boeing Aircraft managing plans for the building of military planes. She subsequently enrolled in one of the first Occupational Therapy (OT) programs in the U.S. at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1951. She then moved back to NYC and worked in Psychiatric OT at what was then the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains, NY, while also pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Columbia University.

Shortly thereafter, she met the love of her life Robert D. Brewer, Jr., M.D. (Bob) and the two moved to Chicago where they were married in 1955. Their son Robert D. Brewer III (Robert) was born the following year. Ruth loved being a wife and mother, and delighted in exploring museums, parks, concerts, and the flagship Marshall Field’s department store on State St. with her young son in tow. She also delighted in reading books - often three at a time - particularly those on philosophy and psychology. In addition, Ruth loved music, and would often play the piano and sing with the family as well.

Her love of children and her deep compassion for those struggling with physical and mental health issues, led her to return to school in the 1970s to get a Teacher’s Certificate, after which she tutored elementary- and middle-school children who were convalescing at home following a serious illness. She also volunteered part-time at a large Veterans hospital outside of Chicago, caring for Veterans with visual impairment and those who had suffered spinal cord injuries.

Drawing on the skills she had learned in childhood, Ruth was an incredible seamstress, and made many of her own clothes throughout her life, as well as some beautiful clothing for others in the family as well. She also loved cooking Scandinavian dishes, including crepes filled with lingonberries and a variety of cookies and cakes, particularly at Christmastime. And she loved coffee, which she called “Norwegian Gasoline”.

Family was always a top-priority for Ruth. She felt a deep devotion to her parents and far-flung siblings throughout her life, and she reveled in getting together with them and playfully swapping stories about life on the farm. She also wrote beautiful heartfelt notes and cards to family members for birthdays and other special occasions. Later in life, she delighted in living close to her son and his family in the Atlanta area, and particularly delighted in caring for her granddaughter Lara. She also loved her neighbors and caregivers at the Kings Bridge Retirement Center and the Fountainview Center, and at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta and later at the Central Congregational Church the family attended. Her sweet and gentle spirit will be deeply missed by all.

Ruth was a woman of her times and ahead of her times, and yet she held this apparent contradiction beautifully. She embodied Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of success, and the world is definitely a better place for her having walked among us. May the same be said of us all.

Ruth was predeceased by her husband Bob in 1989. She is survived by her son Robert; daughter-in-law Evelyn; granddaughter Lara; sister JoAnn Larson (Luther); brother Robert Overgaard (Sally); and sister-in-law Ann Stone; along with Sandra Hussey (Stewart), and many beloved nieces, nephews, and friends. A memorial service will be planned at a later date in accordance with CDC guidelines.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ruth Overgaard Brewer Scholarship Fund in Occupational Therapy at the University of Minnesota; the Ogalala Lakota College in Kyle, South Dakota; or the charity of the donor’s choice. Interment will be at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois alongside her beloved husband Bob.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ruth Overgaard Brewer, please visit our flower store.


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