Willie Ruth (Heun) Hoffman died peacefully on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, with family by her side. She was 93 years old.
Ruth was born in Paint Rock, Texas, in 1927, and was one of seven children including her sisters Olivia, Mildred and Ophelia (Phoebe), and brothers William (Bill), James and Roland (Curlie) Heun. Her father died when she was four. As a child, she watched over her younger brother Billy while her mother worked in the cotton fields during the day and took in laundry in the evenings to make ends meet. It was the beginning of a life lived taking care of others.
Ruth graduated from high school in 1945 and was one of six girls in her graduating class. “The boys were all off to war,” she would recall to her family. She remained in close contact with her best friends from Paint Rock until her death. She never lost her love for her home state of Texas and was a passionate Dallas Cowboys fan.
Ruth met and married an Air Force serviceman, Dean Charles Hoffman, in 1947 and moved with him to North Dakota where they started a family. A few years later they settled in Anaconda, and then the Bitterroot Valley. Her first house in the valley was at Sweeney Creek, where she had four kids under the age of eight. They eventually moved to 3 Mile where she cared for her five children while bottle feeding baby calves and raising chickens—all without indoor plumbing! In 1960 she gave up the country life and the family moved to Missoula. She and Dean later built their own home outside of Missoula on Upper Miller Creek Road, where they lived for more than 15 years. They divorced in 1983 and Ruth moved back to Missoula to begin her life anew with the support and love of her children and many great friends.
Ruthie was a lifelong caregiver, always for her family and then professionally as an in-home caretaker. Her longest tenure was with Bill and Mary Leaphart, who lived in Missoula. She spent more than 20 years caring for them until their passing. Ruth became so well known in the caregiver circuit that she was often approached by several families at once requesting her service for their elders. She worked for many well-known and wonderful families over the years and cherished each one of them. She also formed many long and lasting friendships with the other caregivers she worked with.
Ruth was known among her friends and family for her kindness and compassion. She welcomed anyone and everyone into her family. People that passed through her life always remained a part of her inner circle—that’s just how it was for Ruth. She never let anyone go, and they didn’t want to be let go. Ruthie loved everyone and if she loved you, you knew it.
Ruth also loved animals just like she loved people. Over her lifetime, she cared for countless cats, dogs, horses, cows, chickens and other critters. Any animal that became part of Ruthie’s family won the lottery.
Ruth loved country music and would blush whenever anyone mentioned Merle Haggard. She hummed a happy tune everywhere she went. She was a passionate book lover and read several books a week. Her favorite author was Montana writer Ivan Doig. Ruth was also a seasoned card shark who loved to play card games with her friends and family until the wee hours of the night. The more competitive the card games, the more fun she had. Everyone who knew her knows how fun it was to play with her.
Over the course of her life, Ruth enjoyed camping, fishing, road trips, long drives through the Bitterroot Valley and visits to Glacier National Park. She also traveled as often as she was able to visit her family in Texas, Seattle and Alaska.
Her family was grateful she was able to live her final years in her home in Stevensville with her daughter Cathy and her granddaughter Haley Grace, where she enjoyed views of the Sapphire and Bitterroot Mountains. She could often be found outside on the back deck drinking sweet tea, watching the clouds move across the horizon and listening to the hummingbirds whiz by.
Ruth’s Catholic faith was important to her. Before she moved to Stevensville, she was a frequent parishioner at Holy Family and St. Anthony’s in Missoula. Her family is thankful for Father David and Father Ed who visited Ruth the week she passed to administer mass.
Ruthie was a beloved grandma to 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her grandchildren have countless wonderful memories of time spent with her. Spending a summer or a weekend or a day with Ruth was a day spent having fun. Wherever she was, there was love and laughter and silliness and joy. Some of her grandkids were lucky enough to live with her for a time. Some were lucky enough to have her show up to help when things were especially hard. They are all eternally grateful.
Ruth wasn’t blessed with material wealth, but when she reflected on her life, she only ever saw the positive, recalling how much fun she had raising her six kids, and how much fun she had with all of her grandkids. She never asked for anything, yet she found joy in everything. Ruth was strong in spirit and body until the end of her life. Her family will miss her terribly.
Ruthie is survived by her children: Richard (Debbie) Hoffman of Toquerville, Utah; Jeannie Dennis of Kodiak, Alaska; Stephen Hoffman of Stevensville; David Hoffman of Eureka, MT; William Hoffman (Joan Cole) of Missoula; Cathy Hoffman of Stevensville; her grandchildren Shankara Anderson, Jessica Heasley, Dustin Hoffman, Owen Hoffman, Janet Hoffman, Ireana Grant, Cory Hoffman, Daniel Hoffman, Nicole Dennis (deceased), and Haley Hoffman; great-grandchildren Mykah Anderson, Xavier Hoffman, Isla Heasley, Xander Hoffman and Camrin Burton; and many beloved nieces and nephews in Texas.
A memorial is being planned at a later date. Ruth’s family extends its heartfelt appreciation to all the wonderful people involved in her care during her last week, especially the doctors and nurses at Community Hospital.