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Life Story / Obituary
For those who knew and loved Ruthann Milner, there was nothing greater than the love and generosity she so freely gave towards the ones she loved and cared about. Her nurturing spirit was clearly evident to those around her. Ruthann was always hard working and dedicated in everything she did, and in her family, she found her greatest reward. For these things and so much more, she will be dearly missed.
A time of mixed blessings in the U.S., the year 1943 was filled with the perils of war at a time when the Great Depression was officially deemed over. The Pentagon was dedicated in Arlington, Virginia, and a sense of optimism filled the air with publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and box office hits like Casablanca. Much was being done for the war effort as the nation came together during these tumultuous days of World War II. Yet for Wilbur “Bill” and Helen (Slocum) Schnell, the birth of their little girl, Ruthann on March 3, 1943, was indeed cause for celebration.
Born and raised in the lakeshore city of Muskegon, Michigan, Ruthann was the second of five children in her family, including her brothers, Bill, Howard, and Ron, and eventually her younger sister, Kim. Her father worked as an inspector at Teledyne Continental Motors while her mother remained at home as a homemaker.
When Ruthann was quite young her family moved to Cadillac, Michigan where her father found work. After a few years, they returned to Muskegon, renting a house on Beattie Road which in time came to be Ruthann’s forever home. As a young girl of 12 years old, Varney Milner, a neighbor boy who lived next door, made quite an impression on the heart of young Ruthann. Although four years older than Ruthann, before long he graduated from high school and went on to serve in the U.S. Navy.
Ruthann attended the local schools and at Reeths Puffer High School she excelled in her home economics class. There she learned to be an excellent seamstress and she even brought her baby sister, Kim to class so they could all practice diaper changing and other baby skills. Merely 15 years older than her young sister, Ruthann doted on Kim as if she were her own.
When her neighbor, Varney returned home from the service, he soon discovered that Ruthann had matured into a pretty young lady and they soon began dating. When he started talking about reenlisting in the service during the Vietnam War, Ruthann even skipped school one day to convince him to stay home. Pledging her deep, abiding love, it worked and on June 17, 1961, Ruthann and Varney were happily joined in marriage within days of Ruthann’s high school graduation. She even made her own beautiful wedding gown from window curtain material.
The newlyweds soon settled into a rented apartment in Muskegon Heights. Before long they began a family of their own with the birth of their son, Jeff in 1962, followed by Rick in 1964, and their daughter, Laura completed their family in 1969. Varney provided for their family working at Misco, Ott Chemical, and eventually, Enterprise Brass Works where he remained until retiring.
When Ruthann’s father died, her family moved into the same house on Beattie Road where Ruthann spent the majority of her youth. It was also the same property where her children would come to have homes and families of their own one day, living right next door to each other there on Beattie Road. As members of Dalton Baptist Church, Ruthann raised her family in faith and her Lord was her ever-present guide. Always loving and nurturing, Ruthann ran her household as Varney’s job found him frequently on the road for work. With a gracious spirit, she always placed the needs of her family before her own.
Although their tree farm kept their family busy, while raising the kids Ruthann worked part-time as an operator for GTE for a time. She also worked as a sales clerk at several kiosks located in the former Muskegon Mall. Babysitting for others also offered Ruthann the opportunity to earn extra money and remain at home. When her children were older, her family came to own a Big Boy restaurant in Greenville where Ruthann kept busy waiting tables.
Through the years, Ruthann and her family enjoyed fun family vacations visiting relatives in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. She and Varney loved going on cruises, which came to include those to Alaska, the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, and they once even took a transatlantic cruise during a hurricane! As a couple, they also enjoyed times spent with friends and as members of the Muskegon Elks Club.
Being a grandmother was Ruthann’s greatest delight and she loved spending time with them. She loved each of her grandchildren dearly, and unconditionally. Her talent as a seamstress came in handy as she made many clothes and costumes for her grandkids through the years. Ruthann was a wonderful cook, making many family favorites and she gladly passed along her skills to other family members. No stranger to hard work, Ruthann knew the value of a dollar earned and the satisfaction that came from it. She led by way of example and taught her family well. Even in the midst of hardships and family sorrows, Ruthann held fast to her faith with strength of heart. Five years ago when she began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, it was just as frustrating for Ruthann as it was for the family she loved. As the disease slowly progressed, Varney took loving care of Ruthann along with the help of family members until Ruthann sadly died, surrounded by her family. Deeply missed, she will be remembered with joy.
Mrs. Ruthann Milner, age 73, passed away Thursday, May 26, 2016. SURVIVORS: Husband of 55 years, Varney; son, Rick (Wendy) Milner of Greenville; daughter, Laura Milner-Corbin of Muskegon; nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; brothers, William (Patricia) Schnell of Cadillac, Howard Schnell of Lake City; sister-in-law, Diane Schnell of Waterford; several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her son, Jeffrey in February; granddaughter, Jillian in 1992; parents; brother, Ronald in 1996 and sister, Kimberly Schnell in 2011. SERVICE: Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 6:00 pm and visitation one hour prior to the service at the Clock Chapel-Muskegon with Pastor Chuck Kiesgen officiating. Interment in East Dalton Oakhill Cemetery. MEMORIAL: American Cancer Society. To share a favorite memory or photo of Ruthann and to sign her online guestbook, please visit www.clockfuneralhome.com.