She worked on the family farm and attended her first seven years of school at Little Deer Creek, the one room school southeast of Adrian. Possibly it was the three-mile round trip walk, rain, shine or snow, for school each day, but she developed a strong will, can-do attitude, as well as a love for animals and her nurturing spirit.
The Ficklin family moved into town in 1958, which allowed her to finish school and graduate from Adrian High School, Class of 1959. She served as Junior Class Secretary, Senior Class President and was involved with Cheerleading, Future Homemakers of America (FHA), Pep Club and many other school activities.
After graduation, she enjoyed traveling to various locations in the US, ultimately meeting her former spouse John Ruch and settling in the Kansas City area. In beginning her young family, she extended one of the greatest gifts in adopting her first son, Corey Ruch (now of Lawrence, KS). After giving birth to her second son Craig Ruch (now of Adrian, MO), and following career paths to different cities over the next couple of years, Donita.... Mom...once again sought the calm and stability of her family and friends and moved back to Adrian to raise us.
As a mother, she often showed us that we were her greatest love, though we likely didn't fully appreciate it at the time. Looking back, it is hard to count the multiple number of times she did what was best for us, even though it meant extra work or additional hardship for her. We have fond memories of that every year, Santa would bring us just what we ask for. Though at 4, 5 or 6 years old, we never thought to ask her if Santa brought her what she most wanted. I have a feeling that on most years he did not.
In other examples of her love, any animals or stray pets which needed a bit of mending and a warm home also ranked quite high on her list. When her childhood collie, King, had an unfortunate encounter with a sickle-bar brush mower, she saved him from euthanasia by mending his nearly severed paw with popsicle sticks and peroxide, then tending to him for months of recovery until he could walk on his own once again. When our childhood dog, Maggie, was hit by a car, the living room became a 'doggie intensive care unit' while she was nursed back to health over the next few months. When Mom's cat, Delilah took a mistimed jump and bad landing, Mom rushed the cat to the vet in the family car turned make-shift ambulance, for full hip reconstructive surgery, then spent months helping her recover.
Mom also led by example and had a strong work ethic. Her early jobs included working for American Hereford Association in Kansas City and becoming a production supervisor over a 10+ year career at Marion Laboratories, also in Kansas City. As an example of her work ethic...Mom and three close friends, Ginger, Janice and Myrtle would wake up at 4am to get on the road for the hour commute, carpool to save gas, and accept the hour commute return trip getting them back home around 5pm. A trip that was made through summer heat and winter snow storms for years.
In later years, Mom earned her Realtor's License and began selling real estate in Jackson/Cass Counties and surrounding areas. As her career continued to develop, the 'home town spirit' grew stronger and she began working with Homestead Realty located in Adrian and selling properties in the local area.
Ultimately, Mom earned her Real Estate Broker's License and became the owner of Homestead Realty. She led a team of realtors in the office which she first operated from business offices on Main Street, Adrian, before renovating and moving into the Dr. Colson house and office at 235 E. Main St. She continued to operate the business and sell real estate from this location until her retirement.
Retirement didn't mean slowing down, though. Mom continued to be active with Adrian City Park Board as well as Adrian Lions Club where she earned Lion of the Year 2005-2006 and could often be seen donating time to run various concession stands at ball games or other functions such as the antique tractor show in Adrian. Front porch chats with Cora, Janet, Sue, Teresa, and her many other friends were also a favorite pass time.
She enjoyed growing her green thumb by tending her multiple flower beds, flower pots, and plants in just about any other container which would hold water and a bit of soil. She would always be willing to give away a 'start' of a plant so you could grow your own copy, or take in any wayward starts from others to add to her garden. Her beloved cats, Charlie and Baby were always close at hand to inspect the work by day and show their approval by allowing Mom to hold them curled up in her lap by evening.
Mom also became curator of an 'exceptional' rock garden. To anyone else, these are entirely mundane rocks. The only value to any piece was that it happened to be the odd chunk of gravel one of us kids had picked up off the roadside, trail or beach that day. But these rocks meant the world to her as she hauled those heavy boxes and coffee cans through multiple moves in multiple states over the years! We did almost 'strike it rich' one day, though ...finding a chunk of rock with a pencil-tip size speck of gold poking out! Mom went so far as to take us to a jeweler to see about the value and how much this might add to our allowance money. We were a bit saddened when the jeweler announced..."iron pyrite! ...Fools Gold! ...worth about 10 cents."...but we never stopped looking for that next mother lode...in the roadside gravel!
We could likely go on for pages, recounting fun times, her continual acts of selflessness, caring and compassion, but in bringing closure, it is with a heavy heart and watery eyes that we announce Donita Ruch, beloved Mother, Sister, Aunt, Great Aunt, Mother-in-Law and friend, succumbed to a massive stroke during an extensive surgery she hoped might reduce chronic pain she endured over the past several years. Mom slipped peacefully and painlessly from this Earth on the remarkably warm and sunny Friday afternoon of December 31st, 2021.
We know if she had any say in the matter or was forced to choose, this is exactly the day she would have chosen. She would certainly have enjoyed the bright sun on her face for one more day, but would have made that sacrifice because a warm Friday would be easiest for everyone else to come out and say goodbye. In her final act of posthumous love, Mom became an organ donor so that even her passing might give the gift of life to someone she would never meet.
Though future pets will not know her loving care, and the gardening tools are enjoying a well-deserved rest from working the soil, her loving memory will outlast every one of those "special" rocks even as they withstand the eons to come.
From the bottom of our hearts, Thank You, for everything you've done for us.
Donita is preceded in death by her mother and father, William “Lee” and Dorothy Ficklin. Donita is survived by her sons Corey (Kirsten) and Craig Ruch, her brother Don Ficklin (Carol), niece Christina Ficklin Steffens (Tim), and nephew Rob Ficklin (Anita).
In lieu of flowers, please support your local SPCA, Wayside Waifs, Humane Society, animal shelter, or other charitable organization.
A memorial celebration of Donita’s life, love and achievement is planned for Spring 2022. Formal date will be added at a later time.