Ruth Kaufman Palmer, age 99, a lifelong Springfield resident, died on September 12, 2017, at Stonecrest Assisted Living Facility in Kansas City, following a short illness. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, well-known singer, successful realtor, volunteer, church and community leader, and friend to many. She lived her 99 years filled with a zest for life, with a passion for her family, music, the arts, real estate, animals, and dark chocolate! To know her was to love her! But she had been in declining health in the past few years, due to painful arthritis and heart disease.
Ruth was born in Springfield to Frank and Grace (Watkins) Kaufman of Marshfield, MO, on Sept 3, 1918. Her family moved to Springfield when she was 1-year old. She grew up on a dairy farm on Hwy 13/I-44 where Lowes is now located, during the hard times of the Great Depression and severe drought years.
Her parents stressed education and wanted to take advantage of the Springfield Public schools and colleges. She attended a 1 room county school (Ritter) in first grade and walked a mile in any weather. Later she moved to Springfield schools, played the cello in Jr. High, played the trumpet in the Kiltie Drum Corps and was very active in music and theater in high school. She graduated from Springfield Senior High (CHS) in 1935. She attended State Teacher’s College (MSU) where she majored in English and Music and was a member of the Merry Go Round social club that later became Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority.
During college, she worked part time at the Gillioz Box Office as a cashier. While in college she met the love of her life, Leon Palmer of Morrisville. They married when he graduated from Officer’s Training School in November 1942. They were together for 3 years stationed in TX, LA, and CA, before he was sent overseas to Germany and the Philippines until the war ended in Europe and Japan.
They were married for 16 years when he died suddenly at the age of 43 of leukemia, in 1959, and she was left with 2 small children to raise. She then began her successful career as a real estate agent in 1963 that lasted for 46 years. She started her career in the Dorrel Hanks Co. as the only woman. He was reluctant to hire her because it was not a career for women, or so she was told. But Ruth proved him wrong and she soon became a true trailblazer for women in the real estate industry. During her career, she became a consistent million-dollar producer, working for Jones and Co, Carol Jones Real Estate Co, House of Brokers, and Murney and Associates. She retired with Murney and Associates at the age of 90. She was honored by the Springfield Board of Realtors in 2015 with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Music filled Ruth’s heart her entire life. She began her singing career at the age of 5 when she sang her first solo in church. That singing spanned over 80 years, until she developed throat problems which caused her to retire from singing at age 85.
During her musical career, she had the privilege of performing for three presidents when they visited Springfield (Truman, Nixon and Reagan). She also sang for General Matthew Ridgeway. She was a charter member and soloist of the Civic-Aires, where she was featured on their record “Little Children”, and later she was a featured soloist with the Mid-America Singers, and performed with them three times at Carnegie Hall in New York. She sang at hundreds of weddings and funerals throughout her life, as well as with the Springfield Symphony and Little Theater. She became a charter member of the Springfield Symphony, playing the cello until she started college. One of the highlights of her life was the role of Mother Superior in the Little Theater’s production of the “Sound of Music” in 1969. Ruth’s closing song was “Climb Every Mountain” and every night she would hit the challenging high Bb for the finale!
She and Cliff Patterson, an Irish tenor, were a favorite duo throughout the city, being featured at the Heer’s Singing Tower at Christmas time, and on the hour-long “Memory” show in the 50’s on KY3, with Joe Slattery as MC. She also performed with well-known tenor Russell Newport throughout the area.
She became a member of First and Calvary Presbyterian Church in 1941, where she was contralto soloist with the Chancel Choir for 58 years. She was one of the first of three women to be elected to the Board of Deacons, and later served as an Elder. She was also a long-time member of the Binnie Clemens Guild.
Ruth was also very active in community work with SMMA, Contemporary Art Group, Little Theater, and served on several boards of these organizations, including the Board of Directors for Mo State University Foundation. She also enjoyed her ladies’ bridge group for over 60 years, and her Murney Girls’ Luncheon Group after her retirement.
Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, and her husband, Leon Palmer, a brother, Ralph Kaufman, and a sister Mary Whitney. She is survived by her children, Cindy Chesher (Gary), of Kansas City, and Rick (Donna) Palmer, of Queen City, AZ, 4 beautiful grandchildren, Allison (John) Nelson, David (Jihan) Chesher, Jessica (Jamie) Bower, and Kathryn Palmer, and felt such pride and joy living long enough to enjoy her 4 great-grandchildren, Mia and Collin Nelson, Lillian Chesher, and Joshua Bower. She is also survived by her very special nieces and nephews, John Whitney, Laurel Whitney, Steve Whitney, Mike Palmer, and their families. She also leaves behind her precious kitty PK, and a special friend, Denise Hendricks Riehlman, of St. Louis. The family would like to extend a special thank you to Mary Elizabeth Young for the extra care and love she gave to Ruth, as well as a thank you to the wonderful care she received through Hospice Compassus, both in Springfield and in Kansas City.
Visitation will be from 5:00pm-7:00pm on Wednesday, Sept 20, 2017 at the Gorman-Scharpf Brentwood Chapel. Memorial services will be held on Thursday, Sept 21, 2017 at 10:00am, at First and Calvary Presbyterian Church, with Dr. Andrew Chaney officiating. A reception will follow in the atrium at the church. Interment will be at Hazelwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First and Calvary Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir, Binnie Clemons Guild, Springfield Little Theater, or a charity of your choice. We ask you to celebrate Ruth’s life by wearing her favorite colors of purple, hot pink, orange, or lime green.
Ruth had an amazing life, and in her words was able to ‘climb every mountain and follow her dreams!’ Now she has gone on to join the celestial choir of angels to help them reach that high Bb. And Leon is saying “what took you so long?!”