Ruby Bechthold (nee Knipfel) valued family, faith, community and hard work. Growing up on a Petersburg family farm, she spent long hours hoeing in the fields, making sausage and gathering black currants and raspberries to take to the Kitchener Farmers Market. Sundays she went to Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
Fifty years ago, area Lutheran churches worked together to build a home for teenage boys who struggled with their mental health. Ruby’s children helped clear 10 acres of land to create a special residence and school in Waterloo - the beginning of Lutherwood. “We cleared brush and at the end of the day roasted wieners on the fires,” her daughter Joyce Haus remembered. “At Thanksgiving, the churches brought fresh produce to feed the youth at Lutherwood.”
Armed with big dreams, farm experience and determination, Ruby and her husband Stewart built a poultry business raising chickens for eggs. Sadly, as Stewart came home from helping a neighbour one day, he was killed in an accident at just 44 years old. Ruby was left to raise their four children under ten years old and run the family farm.
"When times were tough, Mum would say “Well that’s the way it goes.” She never dwelt on what might have been." — Joyce Haus
Although she was advised to sell the farm, move to the city and get a factory job, Ruby was too determined and business savvy for that. She went into partnership with her sister-in-law and later with a feed company and a hatchery. The resulting business grew to 10,000 chickens.
“No one considered a woman would be running a farm in those days,” smiled Ruby’s daughter-in-law Bernice Bechthold. “Mum received lots of farm mail addressed to Rudy – assuming Ruby was a spelling error. When she went to farm shows to check out equipment, she was often told to send her husband and they would deal with him. She simply moved on to someone else who would speak to her as a farm owner.”
“Mum was so grateful for any help she received and was always ready to reciprocate,” concluded Bernice. “Giving came naturally to her. She was thankful for what God gave her and willing to share what she had.” Having been active in the creation of Lutherwood, Ruby chose to name Lutherwood in her will to help children who struggle with their mental health for years to come; a fact her children are very proud of.
On June 3, 2018, Ruby passed away. Her faith, devotion, love of people and the values she held dearly will always be remembered. And her legacy will live on.