The world was changed forever when Ruth Esther was born in Salt Lake City in mid-August 1922. The eldest child of John Lyman and Esther Pauline Olsen Holladay, she was the only girl and the only grandchild that her grandpa Dr. Charles Ludvig Olsen would deliver before his passing seven months later. Her brothers included Robert, Donald, Dick, Lee, Brent and Duane. Her surviving siblings include Don and Lee, with others having passed on before her.
An adventurous and curious child, she was doted on by her four aunts, later dubbed as her “Board of Directors.” These four women were Esther’s unmarried career-gal sisters and they made sure that Ruth had the best of everything, including the latest hairstyles and fashions from the city. She was the apple of their eyes and largely due to their abundant attention, Ruth grew into a very self-assured and confident woman.
The family moved to Idaho for a time and Ruth graduated from Kuna High in tiny Kuna, Idaho. She returned to Salt Lake and lived with her beloved Grandma Pauline Heinz Olsen, biding her time until she could join the Navy. Her parents, having two boys already in WWII, refused to sign a permission slip for Ruth to join, so on her 21st birthday, she marched into the recruiting office and signed up herself.
Ruth often told others that she made up her mind when she was young, that she could choose to be happy or choose to be miserable. Fortunately for the world, she chose to be happy. She was stationed in Washington, D.C., as a Wave and later at Patuxent River Naval Station where she was the only female Chief on the entire base. During this time, she took advantage of being close to New York City and made a point of attending as many Broadway shows as she could. Ruth loved movies and everything having to do with live or filmed entertainment.
Ruth met her husband at Patuxent River and they soon married. She became stepmom to Joseph Clark Brinkerhoff Waters’ daughters, Michelle and Merry Jo. Their first baby, Janelle Diane, was born in Connecticut. She was followed by JoEllin Lorraine and Julianne Patrice, all born one year apart. Mom had pretty much decided not to have kids until she met Joe Waters, our daddy. We owned him Lock, Stock and Barrel and mom knew it!
Dad was career Navy and as such was stationed in various locations over the years. We moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where dad was stationed at Pearl Harbor on submarines as the only
medical man on board. They were transferred to Seattle, Washington.
Seattle was home until Joe retired at the age of 47, after 30 years in the Navy. They started a whole new life in Soda Springs Idaho, where they owned and operated a Sears Merchant store.
Ruth’s very favorite role in life was grandma and she perfected the name in every way. The grandkids in order of birth are: Leyla (deceased), Marisa (deceased), Stephanie, Jessica (deceased), Natalie, Joey, Ryan, Amanda, David, Jack, James, Mathew Harrison and Lauren. In addition, she became a loving grandma to Julianne’s “other kids”: Kris, Josh, TJ and Josie Fitzgerald. She invested loving energy into giving these honored grandchildren memories of camping trips, fun times in Idaho, river trips and just having her voice be the first one they each heard on their respective birthdays. She rarely missed calling one child. She loved rocking the babies and singing to them.
Ruth and Joe moved to Arizona in 1994 where they lived until Joe passed away in 1999. At that point, Ruth moved to Moab, Utah, encouraged by Julianne et al so she would be near family. She lived happily in Moab for 15 years and worked at City Market until the age of 90. She made many, many friends in Moab and they were sad to see her move to Salt Lake four years ago so Julianne could watch over her. A highlight for Ruth during this time was going on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. She joined many other veterans for this wonderful experience and she was inducted into the Women in the Military Museum as part of the proceedings. After healing from four serious falls, Ruth moved to Friendship Manor, where she could once more be independent. She loved Friendship Manor and made many fast friends there.
On December 14, 2017, Ruth’s go-to granddaughter Marisa passed away unexpectedly and that’s when, as she put it herself, “her lights went out.” Realizing Mom was declining rapidly, Julianne moved into her apartment with her to tend to her 24/7 at the beginning of February. She was a joy to the very end and had the chance to see and commune with all of her family prior to passing on Wednesday, March 28.
Ruth lived a long and happy life. We promised her that her legacy will live on through her grandkids and we’ll make sure it does.
A memorial will be held on Sunday, April 8, at 4:30 p.m. at Friendship Manor – Room A, 1320 E. 500 South, in Salt Lake City.