Rutten named Unsung Hero for January

Staff reports
Bill Heisler of Lake GM?Auto Center (left) and Barb Warner of Ramsey National Bank (right) present the Unsung Hero award to Mary Rutten, as her husband John looks on.

Like other Unsung Heroes, Mary Rutten does not think she heroic. Going the extra mile is simply part of her nature. Kind and selfless acts of compassion are her way of life. This quality is shared by all heroes. They don’t see themselves as heroic.  But we do.

For thirty years, Mary was a highly respected teacher  at the N.D. School for the Deaf. She  impacted countless lives in a positive way.Mary says, “NDSD is such a great place...the staff, the parents the students all contribute to the wonderful atmosphere.  Students are so happy there.”  

Mary especially enjoyed special projects with the NDSD. students. Among them were:  presenting theatrical productions that were signed (but had voice interpretation for the hearing); teaching cross county skiing to NDSD elementary students at Grahams Island;  and running a Summer Camp.

Now, in her retirement, Mary teaches a class in Tai Chi at Rick Senger’s Lake Region Budo Kan (Martial Arts School).  Her students benefit from her contagious enthusiasm when she leads the class in Meditative Exercise.

Mary is a consummate teacher. She has even been able to teach some signing to her dog. She says, “Dogs can pick up sign language easily...the trick is popcorn.” (She finds she has good success when she rewards her dog with popcorn.)

Mary and her husband, John, have been married 43 years. When they were married,  John was employed as a manager for CARE, a world service organization. They lived over seas for 11 years making their home in the Dominican Republic, Guatamala/Hon-duras, India, Pakistan and Chile.

Each of their three children was born overseas. They were living in India when the twins were born. Mary says, “In India hygiene was a challenge. We had to boil all bath water as well as all drinking water. Fortunately we had the assistance of household help. Recently John and I have been reading some of the letters we wrote home. I can’t help but wonder what our mothers thought as they read our letters!”

Mary says, “In 1979 John took a leave of absence for one year. At that time, I accepted a temporary teaching position at NDSD.  It was supposed to be for just one year.  But we’re still here. We love it here.”

John and Mary grew up in the same neighborhood here in Devils Lake. They speak with fondness about the magical place of their childhood...about their friends and the parents of their friends.   Mary says, “The adults in the neighborhood treated us with such kindness.  It was a wonderful place to learn good solid values and to become aware of what is important in life.”

  Mary  has enjoyed a life long love affair with the Lake Region.  She has lived many places throughout the world.  While she enjoyed many things about each place, she grew to have a greater appreciation for home.  She says, “I love the Lake Region.  I don’t want to live anyplace else.  I love the people...the place.  I even love the winter!”  

Mary and John spent the better part of the past two years in California to be near their daughter Heide, and her family, during her illness. Mary says, “I am grateful that John and I were both retired so we were able to be with Heide the two years before she died.”  Mary admires the courage with which Heide, and her family, lived those final days. “She taught us how to live.”

Mary does so much for so many.  She is a “go-to” person. Friends know that if the going gets tough, they can go to Mary and feel confident that in her patient kind-hearted way, she will help to make the burden light.