Ruth Ida Lillebuen, a keen gardener, grandmother, and beloved spouse of over four decades, died on Sept. 4 in Wetaskiwin, Alberta – the prairie town where she had spent her entire life.
The cause was complications of recurrent ovarian cancer, a disease she had been fighting since 2015. She was 61.
Ruth was born on Oct. 4, 1955 and grew up across the street from the town airport. As a child, she dreamt of one day becoming an astronaut. While her career path may have kept her much closer to ground, she never lost that childhood sense of wonder and curiosity to explore. She was fascinated by the world around her and became a proponent of life-long learning.
Ruth loved the outdoors and could see beauty in the smallest of things. She was passionate about home decorating, yoga, landscaping, aromatherapy, and more. She could spend hours shopping, examining and admiring everything in one store.
Even in retirement, she preferred exploring Vietnam and Cambodia over more typical holiday destinations. She visited Brazil, Australia, Mexico, and took many trips throughout the Caribbean, the United States, and across Canada. She would spend weeks researching each trip, making sure everyone enjoyed the best possible experience.
Ruth attended Clear Vista School and Wetaskiwin Composite High School, where, as a teenager, a rebellious streak revealed her to be an early feminist: she used to hide her blue jeans and change at school so her father wouldn’t see what he felt were scandalous clothes for a young woman to be wearing.
She met her husband, Roy, on Halloween, when she was 19. The pair were inseparable and were happily married for 41 years.
Ruth was also part of her family’s first generation of working women, juggling both career and family responsibilities. She had roles as a bookkeeper and office manager while raising two boys on an acreage on the outskirts of town.
When her two sons left home, Ruth herself returned to school and completed courses at MacEwan University and the University of Alberta. She then gained further credentials in health records management.
She spent over a decade in provincial government roles at Alberta Pensions and Alberta Health Services before her retirement in 2013. She became a volunteer at the Wetaskiwin Heritage Museum and returned to exploring the arts in her retirement.
Ruth continued to enjoy the acreage too. Summers were often spent out on the deck beside the little pond. She could be seen puttering around in her flower bed, enjoying the birds and sharing her excitement over the first flowers of spring.
She was always thinking of others throughout her life and had gladly taken on the role of primary caregiver for her elderly parents. Her family meant a great deal to her. In 2014, she was delighted by the birth of her first grandchild, Freya, who loved drawing and colouring with “Grandma ’Buen” as much as Ruth loved spending time with her.
Ruth will be fondly remembered by her loving family; husband, Roy; sons, Jason (Lisa) and Steven (Sarah); granddaughter, Freya; siblings, John (Patricia) Warnke, Gordon (Laurie Batchelor) Warnke, Cheryl (Tim) Hautzinger, as well as her nieces and nephews; Eric, Ian, Melissa, Sarah, Arielle, Tiffany, and Daniel; her sisters-in-law, Heather (Monty) Burt and Connie (Stan Elias) Hansen, her extended family, and dear friends. She was predeceased by her parents, Bill and Julia Warnke, and sister, Gail Warnke.
Respecting Ruth’s wishes, she was cremated and a family interment service was held at the Wetaskiwin Memorial Cemetery on Sept. 9, 2017.
Her family would like to thank Dr. Theman, Dr. van der Walt, the staff at Unit 43 and at the Cross Cancer Institute, as well as her Home Care team. It was their dedicated care and compassion that allowed Ruth to stay at home until the day she died.
In Ruth’s memory, donations are gratefully accepted to the Cross Cancer Institute.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Baker Funeral Chapel, Wetaskiwin, at (780) 352-2501 or toll-free at 1-888-752-2501.
Charitable donations may be made to:
Cross Cancer Institute
11560 University Avenue, Edmonton, AB T6G 1Z2, AB