Ruth M. (Rotzinger) GraffagnaSeptember 15, 1920 ~ October 9, 2017 (age 97)
Ruth M. (Rotzinger) Graffagna passed away Monday, Oct. 9, 2017 at Delnor Hospital with her family at her side.
Ruth was a wife, mom, grandma and great-grandma, and she was a connection to a time – a generation – passed that epitomized etiquette, family, love, faith and thankfulness, and she lived by those beliefs throughout her life until the morning she passed.
Ruth was always warm to all and engaging to those near her. Her sweet personality was matched with a charming laugh that made new friends every day and reminded life-long friends and family how special she truly was.
Born, along with her identical twin sister Rhua, on Sept. 15, 1920, in Pleasant Plain, Iowa, Ruth grew up on a small farm, and the combination of enduring The Great Depression and attending boarding high school helped form her self-reliant approach to life that would unknowingly form the lives of many after her.
At the age of 19, Ruth made a single, fortunate choice of moving to Elgin, IL, in November, 1939, when her cousin, Margie Rotzinger, told her about the Elgin Watch company hiring workers. Upon her move to Elgin, Ruth began to keep track of her daily life in a leather-bound 5-year diary that she always kept. There were many short notes with perfect, formal handwriting, and the first entry to her diary came on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1939. It was a quick note, “Went to a Band Concert at the Elgin High School. Met Louis Graffagna and Amil Thies. We went for a ride and then they brought us home.”
It was the first mention of Louis Graffagna, but his name would appear more and more as Ruth’s diary progressed. The name Louis Graffagna soon turned to Louie G. and then just to Louie as the two became more acquainted, seeing each other, by chance or choice, at various dances around Elgin.
A couple days after her first diary entry, on Thursday, December 7, 1939, Ruth wrote: “Saw Louie G. again. Met Carl Bohne. Louie brought me home. He asked me for a date Sunday night.”
That same weekend, Saturday, Dec. 9, 1939, is the first hint there was more than just having fun dancing going on as Ruth wrote, “Went to the dance with Melvin Bath. Saw Louie G. there. Had the ninth dance with him. I like him.”
Poor Melvin Bath.
December, 10, 1939, a Sunday, “Something tells me I’m going to like this Louie very much. I’m so excited I’ve got the jitters. Went to movie with Carl Bohne + Veona R.”
For the next two weeks, the diary entries are empty, and then on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1939, Ruth found a moment to write: “Xmas Even. Went to a movie with Louie. Gee he gave me a gift. I wonder why? I’ve know him such a short time.”
On Christmas, Dec. 25, 1939, “Ate dinner with Margie. Had a date with Louie. Margie was with Junior. Went to Elmers’s. They all came here in the evening.”
Dec. 30, 1939, a Saturday, Ruth wrote: “Went to Temple. Later to the Armory. Two dances in one nite. Got in at three and tomorrow nite is New Year’s Eve. Louie is swell.”
The following night, Dec. 31, 1939, Ruth’s diary entry reveals not only what 1940 will bring but what the remaining years of her life will be all about. “New Year’s Eve,” Ruth writes, “Went to the Temple with Louie. Had a perfect time. Louie kissed all the girls. I think I like him a little too much for that.”
Life must have been pretty busy for Ruth starting off 1940, as her diary entries were rather sparse until Feb. 3, 1940. “Went to the Temple with Louie. Russ went along. Met Louie’s sister Lucile and her girl friend.” The diary goes on to mention many evenings Ruth spent with Louie going to the movies to see films at the Crocker like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and spending time listening to radio, live theater and Guy Lombardo.
Come Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1940: “Received a valentine from Louie. It made me so happy, He went to church with me in the evening.”
Small gestures turned into evenings dancing in the big city, “Went to the Aragon with Louie. My first time there. It was a surprise and I’m certainly thrilled. Gee I’m happy.” – Saturday, Feb. 17, 1940.
Louis appears nearly every day now in Ruth’s diary, and on Saturday, Feb. 24, 1940, Ruth wrote: “Went to the Temple with Louie. Said he likes me a lot. Gee I’m happy.” A week later, March 2, 1940, “Went to the Temple with Louie. Had a grand time. Got home at 2:30. I’m so happy. I like Louie lots.”
And then, on Saturday, March 9, it happened.
“Had a grand time at the Temple with Louie. He told me he loved me. Gosh I hope he meant it. I’m so happy.”
Indeed, Louis did mean it, and later on in March of that year, Ruth describes meeting Louie’s family and having dinner with them, even on Easter. “I hope Louie’s family likes me,” she wrote on March 25, 1940, “It made me so happy meeting them all. A thrill I’ll never forget.”
In fact, it’s certain Ruth must have known what was in the cards with that dinner, as Louie’s siblings, Ruthie and Dickie started to appear here and there in Ruth’s diary. And, of course, there was a whole lot more happening that just budding friendships with the siblings of the guy she liked. The family dinners became more common, family trips to Chicago to see bands at the Aragon and other places occurred more frequently.
We know now that Ruth had very little to worry about with Louie or his family liking her, for less than two years after that fateful meeting at the High School dance, Louis and Ruth were married on Sept. 10, 1941.
The nights of dancing continued as well as the rounds of golf and matches of ping-pong with Ruth and Louis. Louis joined the Army after Pearl Harbor, and Ruth and Louis lived the Army life for a few years, moving to Oklahoma, then Texas and on to Utah. Louis served in the European Theater during WW2, and upon his arrival home, Ruth and Louis, along with Baby Barry who was born in June 1945 while Louis was overseas, settled into a new home built for returning veterans on Anderson Boulevard in Geneva.
Barry was followed by three more sons, Douglas, Gregory and Jeffery. As a Mom, Ruth became involved with the Young Mother’s Club, the Boy Scouts, PTA, and learned how to give a nice spanking. She taught all four boys how to cook, clean and do the laundry, and knowing what she was in for with four boys, Ruth made sure the Emily Post rules of manners and table setting etiquette were always followed.
As the boys grew older and more independent, Ruth used her many talents to go back to work at local places like Erday’s, Merre Lee, Portable Electric Tool, and Delnor hospital. When her sons became parents of their own, Ruth was known as the Grandma who loved to babysit and play golf weekly.
And she loved to see her 7 grand children as often as possible, and thankfully, Grandma Ruth got to meet and influence a fourth generation of her family – 5 great grandchildren, Birdy, Maisy, Samuel, Sonny and Sal, with the first arriving in 2009 when she was a spritely 89.
Nothing can replace a wife, mom, grandma and great grandma with nearly 100 years of wisdom. We should cherish Ruth was around for 97 years and appreciate the life she gave to three generations that follow her and do our best every day to enjoy and live a fulfilled life.