Ruth Ellen Hartwell Rossow

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When a loved one dies, we must ultimately let go of their hand. On Monday March 8, 2021 we let go of the hand of our family matriarch, Ruth Ellen Hartwell Rossow, and placed her hand in the loving care of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Ruth was born at home on November 25, 1926 in Omaha, Nebraska. A child of the Depression, she excelled at finding fun - paper dolls cut from newspapers, a bicycle (won in a contest), her cherished Shirley Temple Doll, Nancy Drew books, and Camp Fire Girls. She loved riding the city bus – a love that endured throughout life.

    As a college freshman, Ruth attended Creighton in Omaha. She transferred to Iowa State College where she met future husband, Vernon Rossow. One evening, each announced to roommates that they were going to the library to find a date for the upcoming weekend. Ruth’s friendly smile to a shy Iowa farm boy was enough encouragement for a date to the basketball game and ultimately a lifetime together. Ruth pledged Chi Omega sorority and graduated Iowa State with a B.S. in Dietetics. She and Vernon married in August 1948. 

    Ruth followed Vernon as he continued his education and his career. She worked as a dietician at the University of Michigan Hospital and at Stanford Hospital. They then bought a house in Los Altos. Founding members of Los Altos Lutheran Church, they were active in many roles.

    First child, Ellen, was born in 1951. Six weeks later the new family moved to Zurich, Switzerland for Vernon to pursue his doctorate, courtesy of a National Research Council fellowship. Although Ruth didn’t speak German, her outgoing personality helped her to quickly pick up the local dialect. She and Vernon made life-long friends in their year and a half in Switzerland.

    Returning to Los Altos, three more children were born to the couple - Elise, Matt and Heidi. Ruth continued to devote herself to her family and her Christian faith. She believed in making one’s own happiness (Phil. 4:11). Boredom was an unknown experience. An accomplished pianist, she would practice as her kids fell asleep at night. Ruth played piano and organ for church. She loved to sing, often making up songs to entertain children. She excelled at her many hobbies: sewing, English hand smocking, wood carving, cooking, jewelry making, wedding cakes, shopping, Camp Fire Leader, pine needle baskets, oil painting, garage sales, gardening, family trips to Disneyland, and genealogy (Mayflower descendant, Hartwells of America, DAR, ancestors among Northern and Southern soldiers in Civil War).

    She was loathed to throw anything away.  Famous for “creative cooking” she once added leftover garlic butter to Brownies. We all wondered what the unusual flavor was and teased her to no end. She laughed along with us.

    As she focused on raising her and Vernon’s children, she opened a home day care which she operated for about 25 years. She taught a children’s cooking class through the Los Altos Recreation Dept. and also worked for a gem dealer.

    Ruth was devastated when Vernon died 5 years ago. She questioned why God didn’t take her and wondered what His purpose was in keeping her on earth. With time and prayer, Ruth determined that He wanted her to “spread joy.” To that end, she set about getting to know the staff and other residents at her new home, Bridgepoint at Los Altos. Residents would often stop family members in the halls to say how much they loved Ruth and what a good friend she was to them.

    Preceded in death by: parents Lou Olna Yelton Hartwell and E. Edgar Hartwell, brother Edgar Hartwell Jr., sister Helen Hartwell Wismer, brother Dick Hartwell, husband of 67 years Vernon Rossow, grandsons Christian John Rossow and Spencer Christian Rossow.

    Survived by children: Ellen (Chris) Bowen, Elise (Terry) Holst, Matt (Ann) Rossow, Heidi (Steven Colwell) Rossow; 6 grandchildren: Marie (Brian), Silas (Julie), Meredith (Matt), Seth (Michelle), Christy (Micah), Andrew (Lucas); 15 great grandchildren: Lydia, Jack, Jenna, Liam, Addy, Tucker, Dillon, Abbey, Maggie, Lilly, Walter, Samson, Timothy, Noah, Johanna.

    Ruth was a “Proverb 31 Woman.” While we miss her terribly, we are grateful to have had Ruth in our lives. We grieve, but our tears are mixed with treasured memories, laughter, and wisdom she taught us. 

    We are especially grateful for the loving care she received from the staffs at Bridgepoint at Los Altos, El Camino Hospital, Hospice of the Valley, and The Terraces of Los Altos.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made in honor of Ruth to: Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA (or your local food bank) or Los Altos Lutheran Church.  For information about an April Memorial Service please email [email protected]

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