The heavenly choir gained a director on June 17, 2016 when Virginia Erickson Ruark went home to the Lord. She was 90. Visitation will be from 4-7 PM on Monday June 20 at the Geilenfeld Funeral Home in Oelwein. Funeral services will begin at 11 AM on Tuesday June 21 at the Geilenfeld Funeral Home with visitation from 10-11 AM.
Virginia was born on January 20, 1926 to Walter Erickson and Lydia Dohl Erickson. Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia was a south sider whose childhood experiences included sitting on Al Capone's lap as a little girl. The oldest of three girls, she had plenty of opportunities to practice being in charge by bossing around her sisters, Jean and Barb. A child of the depression era, Virginia sold cleaning supplies door-to-door to supplement the family's income.
Virginia's love of music began at a young age. As a girl, she studied piano with Bissel Padgett, a concert pianist, and had the opportunity to perform with him on occasion. She studied organ with Paul F. Braun at the American Conservatory of Music and studied voice with William A. Phillips, Chicago Opera Co. tenor. She was singing live on the radio in Chicago when she was interrupted to announce the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Virginia spent many years as a church soloist and organist. She also spent many years giving free piano and voice lessons to many. Virginia had a particular musical passion for directing church choirs, an activity that combined her love of music and her love of God.
Virginia loved to study and graduated from Englewood High School at the age of 16. She went on to attend Chicago Teacher's College, San Diego State Teacher's College, and the University of Chicago. During World War II, Virginia taught high school math and preschool. Virginia was working as a personnel director at Link-Belt Co. in Chicago when the company hired a young engineer named Robert Ruark. They married on October 4, 1957 and had two daughters. Bob and Virginia lived in Illinois, North Carolina, and Wisconsin prior to settling in Oelwein in 1967 to start ABCO Engineering.
Virginia was an active volunteer, particularly when it came to politics. She held offices at the county, state, and national level for the General Federation of Republican Women. Virginia also served on the Iowa and National Board of Engineering Examiners, and was on a governor-appointed committee to recommend judges for the Iowa Supreme Court and Appellate Court. She also enjoyed participating in organizations such as the American Guild of Organists, The MacDowell Club, and the Tuesday Tourist Club.
Virginia was preceded in death by her parents, sister Jean Erickson, son John Alan Dutko and daughter-in-law Rose Marie Dutko. She is survived by her husband Bob; sister Barbara Anderson of East Longmeadow, MA; daughter Trish (Bill) King of Houston, TX; daughter Ginny (John) Wessels of Lawrence, KS; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.