She was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, a teacher to many elementary children, an author and a lover of adventures and celebrations.
She was born Ruby Fern Morrow on Aug. 17, 1922, to Mildred and Lige Morrow in Strauss. She graduated from Labette County Community High School in 1939, attended normal training and began teaching in rural schools at the age of 17. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University in 1961 and a master’s degree in 1965.
Fern’s first teaching jobs were in one-room rural schools in Labette and Montgomery counties, where she taught all subjects, grades 1 through 8. While arranging for an auctioneer for a box supper, she met Leonard Wood, a local farmer. The two were married Oct. 18, 1942, and shared a wonderful life together for 62 years. The two lived on the family farm for nearly 50 years, and they traveled to 49 states and four countries. Leonard preceded her in death in 2005.
Fern taught for 26 years in Cherryvale elementary schools, and she enjoyed reading to the children, organizing Japanese tea parties each year and staging plays. She was also the first Head Start teacher in Cherryvale. Fern was named master teacher in 1973 and retired in 1987.
She was a longtime member of United Methodist Church in Cherryvale and taught Sunday school classes for many years.
She loved local history and sharing stories. She wrote “Pop and Bud,” a book about her father’s country store; “The Benders: Keepers of the Devil’s Inn,” a book about Cherryvale’s famous mass murdering family from the 1800s; and “Born to Teach,” about her experiences as a teacher. As a local historian, she served on the Cherryvale Museum Board for many years and organized the town’s Benders Day for four years.
Fern enjoyed organizations and public speaking, and she was a local and state leader for the American Association of University Women, Delta Kappa Gamma and the Kansas Authors Club. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Cherryvale and helped organize Cherryvale’s centennial celebration and a Heritage Day to celebrate the country’s bicentennial, and she was a leader of Cherryvale’s Main Street effort.
Her most important work was as a wife, mother and grandmother. She was a project leader in the local 4-H club and directed prize-winning skits. Her grandchildren enjoyed her handmade quilts, her decorated cakes, her Sunday dinners and her Christmas goody boxes.
Survivors include three children and their spouses, Mike and Margaret Wood of Wichita, Sherry and Dick Ruddell of Fort Worth, Texas, Toni Wood and Dan Gallaher of Shawnee; six grandchildren and their spouses, Kerri and James Thomson of Cherryvale, the Rev. Chris Ruddell and the Rev. Crystal Hughes of Morris, Okla., Jessica and Nathan Nielsen of Dayton, Ohio, Alex Treaster of Kansas City, Mo., Grant and Brandy Treaster of Charlotte, N.C., and Nicholas Treaster of Shawnee. She also is survived by two great-grandsons, JackК Andrew Thomson, who brought her great joy when he visited, and William Weldon Hughes-Ruddell, who was born on the day that Fern died. She is also survived by three sisters, Virginia Fairchild of Kingman, Betty Ledford and her husband, Gary, of Cherokee and Carol Cormeny of Deepwater, Mo.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Bill Morrow.
She was greatly loved and will be missed by her extended family and her many friends and former students.
Visitation will be from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, with the family receiving friends from 6 to 8 p.m. at Potts Funeral Home in Cherryvale. A celebration of her life will occur at 10 a.m. Saturday at United Methodist Church in Cherryvale. Interment will be in Fairview Cemetery in Cherryvale under the direction of the Potts Chapel.