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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Today we are remembering the rich life of centenarian Ruth Hammersmith


Above / On numerous occasions over the past 78 years, Ruth Hammersmith, a 1938 graduate of North Central College, was known to put on her spirit wear and cheer for the Cardinals. (PN File Photo)

UPDATE, July 6, 2017 / One of Naperville’s longtime residents and devoted volunteers, Ruth Hammersmith died peacefully at home on July 2, 2017. Friends knew Ruth as a woman of deep faith who served as a significant parish leader at St. Benedict in Bolingbrook.

A memorial service is being planned in the future.

Happy 100th Birthday, dear Ruth!

Ruth Hammersmith turns 100 years old!

Naperville, Dec. 23, 2016 / Ruth Hammersmith hails from the Hammersmith family that settled in Naperville in 1848. She was born on December 23, 1916, the middle child of German immigrants, Mabel Antoinette and Carl Gustav Hammersmith. Accordingly, today she becomes one of more than 72,000 centenarians in America.

Born in Hinsdale, Ruth and her two sisters, Marguerite (Peg) and Mabel were raised by their aunt and their father after their mother died. The sisters grew up in their aunt’s home, a painted lady house in the historic district near North Central College where Ruth has lived all except three years of her life, noted her friend Nancy Davis.

Both of her sisters preceded Ruth in death. Peg died at age 95 in 2010 and Mabel died at age 92 in 2011. All three sisters were graduates of the Naperville High School where Ruth was a member of the Class of 1934.

She was graduated from North Central College in 1938.

Ruth worked at Nichols Library as well as for many other nonprofit organizations. She loves books, art and classical music; and has always appreciated living near the performance venues and attending concerts on the campus of North Central College.

Paul Loscheider, now retired VP for business affairs at NCC, visited with Ruth during Cornerstone Day 2012. (PN File Photo)

She’s oftentimes enjoyed the Cornerstone Day Picnic held every May to commemorate North Central College’s 1870 move from Plainfield to Naperville.

Founding member of Naperville Heritage Society

In 1969, Ruth was one of the founding members of the Naperville Heritage Society and has shared many fond memories of volunteering to help raise funds for its purpose to save important buildings throughout Naperville that would be moved to create Naper Settlement on the Martin-Mitchell Museum property. The first building, St. John’s Episcopal Church, was relocated from the corner of Jefferson and Ellsworth, and is now known as Century Memorial Chapel.

Above / On Dec. 22, 2016, the plough at the entrance to the Pre-Emption House at Naper Settlement was covered with snow. A little dusting uncovered the inscription and Ruth Hammersmith’s name among 31 founding members of the Naperville Heritage Society, including Jane Sindt, Genevieve Towsley and May Watts.

Thanks to the dedication of Ruth and many other local activists, today 30 structures are located at Naper Settlement, a beautifully landscaped 12-acre outdoor history museum, the only museum of its kind in Illinois that is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Naper Settlement continues the vision of its founders to preserve and present history for future generations and to be a viable amenity in the community, recently introducing plans to add an Agricultural Interpretative Center.

A tribute is set on a large rock at the entrance to the Pre-Emption House recognizing the notable founding members that rallied around establishing the Naperville Heritage Society.

Ruth Hammersmith, pictured here with Joanne Nadelhoffer, is among Naperville Heritage Society founders listed on the “plough” outside the Pre-Emption House. (PN File Photo)

In 2009, the Naperville Heritage Society celebrated its 40th anniversary, welcoming the founders, members, volunteers, staff and others to various events planned throughout the yearlong party. Then-Mayor George Pradel declared February 5, 2009, “Naperville Heritage Society Day.”

During these very golden years, Ruth has good days and not-so-good days. Davis remembers stories of the great joy Ruth had helping other people and working toward all the goals of Naper Settlement.

“Several years ago the Heritage Society presented a replica of the plough to Ruth,” said Davis as she was planning a small party to celebrate Ruth’s birthday. “The plough sits next to her favorite chair in her living room where she sees it every day.”

Editor’s Note / When your PN Editor worked in the public relations department at Naper Settlement in 1993, she first met Ruth Hammersmith and her two sisters, and throughout the years we’ve run into Ruth on numerous occasions at North Central and Naper Settlement. We appreciate that Nancy Davis has kept us informed.   —PN, July 6, 2017

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.

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