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Ruth Newhouse, Our Beloved Family Icon, Passes Away
Updated 8:54 PM ET Oct 5, 2000
Ruth Newhouse
Ruth Newhouse uses the American Sign Language sign for "love" to send her blessings!

East Pennsboro, PA (June 2000) - Our dear mother, Ruth Newhouse, died in Holy Spirit Hospital in East Pennsboro Township, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, at 7:30 PM, Friday, June 9, 2000 -- just three days after her 85th birthday. Her son Anthony, daughter-in-law Norma Jean, granddaughter Charlotte Ruth and Charlotte's husband Abed were all at her side in prayer, and Lutheran pastor Timothy Hoffman had just finished prayers with Ruth moments before she passed away.

Her funeral service was held Wednesday, June 14, 2000, at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Aston Township, Pennsylvania. Ruth is buried with her husband Wynter Reed Newhouse at Edgewood Memorial Cemetery in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

Ruth is survived by five sons, William, Geoffrey, Anthony, Dean and Guy, and one daughter, Jacqueline LeDuc. Ruth also had 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio, as Ruth Leta Strack on June 6, 1915, the only daughter of William Henry and Viola Charlotte Rex Strack. Additionally, she is survived by her eldest brother Raymond W. Strack of Los Angeles. Her twin brother, Carl Henry Strack, passed away in 1988.

Ruth and her husband raised their family in Chester, Pennsylvania, but most recently she was a resident of Midland, Michigan. She was in Pennsylvania staying with her son Dean and his family when she was stricken with a stroke at an extended family gathering at the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

Prior to her passing, Ruth told of her canoe trips with her husband Wynter decades ago. "About a year after we married," she said, "we took off on a canoe trip down the Muskingum River in Ohio from Zanesville to Marietta and then west on the Ohio to Pomeroy where Wynter got on a bus & went back to Zanesville to get our car & then came back for me. We had a little pup tent and camped on islands. We were gone two weeks. It was delightful -- but those were simpler times."

At her funeral service, her eldest son William offered the following eulogy, which accurately portrays Ruth's character:

"Mombo, as those of us who grew up under her attentive care and guidance affectionately called her, was one of those people who loved everybody, and everybody loved her. It was impossible to talk with her or be around her and not find Mombo's cute mannerisms and friendly nature engaging.

"Her good humor and honest interest in people made them instant friends after first meeting her. It seemed she could never dislike anyone. The word hate was not in her vocabulary. She would have been a great successful international ambassador of goodwill.

"However, she was much more of a person than just a lovable pretty lady: Mombo was my ideal of an all around woman, indeed, an all around personal sweet, yet tough cookie of a lady who didn't allow herself to be molded into a stereotype of what a female is supposed to be like, or act like in this world. Mombo could chit-chat about the goings on down the street or speak with valid opinions and up-to-date knowledge about the international situation in the Middle East or China or Russia, for example.

"Not long ago, I got her a subscription to People magazine, which she said she enjoyed, but she said she really wanted her subscription to Time magazine renewed, thank you! And while she certainly was a fan of 'I Love Lucy', and other more current TV sit-coms. Mombo would not fail to keep up with CNN and CBS 60 minutes. When she was a bit younger, our mother and friend Mombo reminded me of Clark Gable's movie star, comedian wife, Carol Lombard. (I am a big movie fan, as was Mom also). Clark Gable said a big reason he loved his wife, Carol, so much was that she would go out with him to the mountains fishing, camping, or canoeing and then come back to the city, dress-up and go out to dinner, the theater and out on the town.

"Mombo would do the same with her husband, our father Pop, who used to call her Ruthie. Later on, the six of us kids she raised and all of us as a family would go camping, go to the movie theaters and travel around the country, seeing and enjoying and learning about different places, people and things in New York, Los Angeles, the Smokey Mountains, the Rockies and Yellowstone Park to name a few.

"Mombo canoed on long distance voyages down the Ohio River sleeping in tents on islands along the way like a distaff Tom Sawyer; and not so many years ago she set out for the Midwest to investigate the giant Indian Serpentine mounds in Indiana and other areas there.

"Yet, as much as she enjoyed living life large back in the day, and seeing things from much more than a Myopic viewpoint, Mombo was an intimate person, an understanding person, someone a person could talk to who would listen and who always understood your worries or concerns in life.

"We have all called her Mombo and some people might wonder where that affectionate nickname originated. Well, there was a popular song on the radio back in the 1950s sung by, I believe Rosemary Colony, called 'Mombo Italiano'. While our Mom wasn't Italian, she did love to sing that song around the house: 'Hey Mombo! Mombo Italiano! Hey Mombo!' For those who have further interest in that former number one hit record on your Hit Parade, I have seen it advertised for sale on cable TV as part of a musical collection called Famous Mob Hits.

"So who was Mombo besides an endearing and great lady? For one, she was my best friend, someone I could relate with on any subject in a very comfortable, and often comforting manner. Mombo was 'love-personified'. She always believed in the ultimate expression of love, which is giving without the pre-condition, or expectation of getting something in return.

"She did achieve her wish of living to 85 years of age to now hold the Strack family female record for longevity and she did obviously enjoy the birthday party we had in her hospital room for her.

"Mombo, who wasn't exactly a member of any frequent flyer clubs, did express how enthralled she was with the heavenly view of sky and clouds from the airliner that a few weeks ago brought her nearer to home, and to so many of us who loved her.

"Recently, 'So you want to be a millionaire?' had become Mombo's favorite TV show. I asked her she if she could win a million dollars and have anything she wanted what would it be? Her answer could have been like most people for some material thing like, for example, a better apartment, but her answer was touching and perhaps surprising. She said she would just want to have Pop come back to her.

"Well now, at least I hope she is with him again.

"A few evenings ago, at Tony and Debbie's home some of us watched a video taken during my last Christmas visit to Mombo in Midland, Michigan. At first we were afraid that seeing this video would be too upsetting. However, soon we were chuckling at how cute and humorous Mombo was, and is: forever in our hearts.

"A wonderful lady, mother, friend and a great person is Mombo, or Ruthie as Pop called her and, that's the thought I have and would like to leave with all of you..."

-- Bill Newhouse

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