Native Writes: Because of Ruth


This is not an epitaph and it’s written with hopes that one won’t be needed for a long, long time.

Learning Ruth Heide has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer sent me reeling and I decided to take my concerns to a higher power who truly can deliver miracles. Whenever Ruth crosses my mind, I pray.

I first met Ruth in the mid-1980s when she was working for the Del Norte Prospector and I was working for The Valley Courier.

She was an example for me then, as she is today. When the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce called the police chief a “Pompous ass,” she continued taking notes in her amazing shorthand while I struggled to maintain my composure. I never knew if she agreed with me or not.

Because of Ruth, I have learned not to react when something happens at a public meeting, but just to keep taking notes. If it’s relevant, I write about it, if not, it remains in my notes.

Because of Ruth, I have learned so many things.

First off, no one is a saint and infallible.

Because of Ruth, I have learned not to prank someone until I know the person well.

She is seriously afraid of spiders and didn’t appreciate my handing her a plastic ring with a fake spider on top.

It resulted in a backhand, a slap and an explanation. We can still laugh about it. She effectively slew the spider.

Because of Ruth, I have learned one’s vocabulary can be used to express unpleasant emotions and works more effectively than profanity. I have never heard her use “bad words,” though she has heard me erupt with a few.

Over the years, I have seen Ruth interact with terrible people, maintaining a calm demeanor and even mustering a smile. Covering cops, courts and local government is never easy, since people have other ideas and express them, often in the face of the reporter.

Because of Ruth, it’s best to trust the rule of law and hope justice will prevail. One of the first events I covered after returning from Summit County was the preliminary hearing for her brother, who was charged with murder.

Her only expressed concern was that my reporting be accurate.

With no backstory to work with, I wrote the facts as they emerged.

She has taught me to be fair, though I fail sometimes.

Because of Ruth, I have learned not to push my politics on others. She has shut me down more than once.

When Ruth wanted to run for county commissioner, I hatched a plot that I would run against her and, while the public was chewing on the gristle of my past, she would be elected by a landslide.

We didn’t make the ballot. I still think Ruth would have been an amazing commissioner.

A colleague once told me, “Ruth is long-suffering to a fault” and I replied that I saw no fault there. She is committed to her work and does so even when someone else would quit.

He has since met his maker and toils in the huge newsroom up — or down — stairs.

Making knee-jerk judgments was his failing and, I think, mine. I’m giving it up for lent and hope the habit sticks.

Because of Ruth, I try to step back and take a look at things.

As she faces what I see as the unknown, her strong faith helps her prepare for tomorrow and all her days after that, knowing her life has merited a place in Heaven.

Because of Ruth, I have learned to pray.

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