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Getting to know Ruth Ellen Stanley:
Hobbies: Sewing, she goes to open sewing day at the extension office. She knits purses but doesn’t crochet.
Education: Home economics major in college.
Favorite TV shows: “Jeopardy,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “NCIS”
Favorite sports team: Kentucky Basketball, she goes to see them play every time she has a chance.
Favorite music: Classical music because it’s peaceful. She’s not a country music fan because there’s too much sadness in country music. She also likes the oldies from the 50s and 60s.
Favorite movie: “The Sound of Music”
Mentors: Her dad and sister-in-law.
Ruth Ellen Stanley, 84, has lived a life dedicated to helping others.
Her life began in Beaver Dam, Ky. Stanley’s mother died when she was a teenager but, she said, she had a good father who taught her how to cook. Her brother was out of high school before she was born so her older sister-in-law taught her many things a mother usually would teach her child.
In 1955, she came to the children’s home in Glendale for a summer job. They hired her to come back as assistant superintendent after she graduated from college. She was with the facility for almost 19 years.
While she was there, the facility cared for orphaned, abused and neglected children from age 2 until they went to college. Sometimes they had as many as 200 children.
“We were busy,” Stanley said.
While at the children’s home, a teenager was there who she cared for like a daughter.
“She just needed someone to be a mother person to her,” Stanley said.
At that time, single people could not adopt,but Stanley still cared for the girl as if she were her own daughter. Stanley made her a birthday cake when she turned 16, not knowing she had never had a birthday cake before.
When the young lady graduated from high school, she lived with Stanley, then went on to college and got married. Later, when the girl she mothered was a grandmother herself, the laws changed and Stanley, still single, was able to officially adopt her.
Stanley has three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
Her daughter died of cancer a few years ago, and Stanley was glad she had the strength to help her family take care of her during her illness.
The Girl Scouts also have been a part of Stanley’s life, even before she moved to Hardin County.
“I loved it,” she said.
Over the years, she’s seen a lot of cookies.
“Oh, my heavens, and my freezer is full of them now,” she said.
When she was still in Beaver Dam, her house was the storage area for cookies and her house was full of the boxes.
Stanley was on the state board for Girl Scouts for six years, then was secretary for the board for two more years.
While finishing her time at the children’s home, Stanley began volunteering at Hardin Memorial Hospital. It was there she learned about patient representatives and thought the hospital needed one, but patient representatives were new at the time.
Stanley was president of the hospital auxiliary in 1973 and 1974. Since she no longer worked at the children’s home, she knew she might be moving and met with the president of the hospital to let him know she was leaving. She told him if the hospital created a position for a patient representative to let her know because she wanted to put in her application. He told her to come back the next day.
She researched the position and went to Louisville to speak with the president of the national society who was at Norton Hospital at the time.
This month, she received a plaque recognizing her charter membership in the Kentucky patient representative chapter. The organization was celebrating their 30th anniversary.
“Ruth Ellen is a remarkable lady and a good friend,” said Kevin Hilton, director of volunteer services at HMH.
Hilton has known Stanley for more than 30 years. Currently, she serves as the president of the auxiliary and volunteers in several different roles at HMH and the Ring Road rehab facility, Hilton said.
One of those jobs is printing and distributing e-cards sent to patients through the HMH website.
“She has donated many hours to the hospital and numerous community organizations,” Hilton said. “She is truly a giving person.”
Stanley also has served on the advisory board at American Red Cross, was on the committee to start a free clinic in Hardin County, is a charter member of the area Zonta Club and was involved with two Red Hat Societies.
“She does more than I do,” her great-granddaughter, Bethany Kuhn said.
“I’m hard to find,” Stanley said.
She still finds time to work in the nursery at Gilliad Baptist Church in Glendale.
“I can rock babies and feed them, but I can’t get in the floor and play with them anymore,” she said.
Kuhn said her great-grandmother is “fantastic.”
“She’s a role model for women beyond anyone else I can think of,” she said. “To grow up in an era where you were expected to get married and take care of your house and children, she never married and did whatever she wanted to do and went wherever she wanted to go — she’s just amazing.”
Stanley has traveled every continent except Africa and Antarctica and has visited all 50 states.
She’s even taken a road trip to Alaska.
She’s led a full life and hopes to keep busy for the rest of it.
“I believe you need to keep busy physically and mentally to stay healthy,” she said. “Hopefully I can keep my wits about me until I die.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.