Ruby Marie Chelgren, 91, of Peoria, IL, died peacefully surrounded by her loving family at 11:18 am on Thursday, November 19, 2020, at her residence.
She was born on March 10, 1929 in Abercrombie, North Dakota, to Gustav Adolph and Ida Regina (Sathe) Markeseth. She married Walter Chelgren on November 27, 1948, in Havana, ND. He passed away on January 6, 2018. She was also preceded in death by her parents, son Robert Chelgren, one grandson Matthew Christell, and two brothers Donald and Roger Markeseth.
Surviving are her children, Patricia (Tom) Christell of Springfield, IL, John (Terry) Chelgren of Munster, IN, Jeanne (Gary) Setterlund of Germantown Hills, IL, and James (Elizabeth) Chelgren of Mooresville, NC; thirteen grandchildren; twenty great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson.
Ruby was a war bride in New Mexico and later in Texas. She and Pat were able to join Walt, who was stationed in Japan, arriving on the last ship allowed to transport family members to the country due to the increasing military conflict in Korea. For a year and a half, Sasebo was home. Ruby's recollections of those months were vivid and revealing. The family was able to return safely to the United States together in 1954.
Ruby was a self-employed daycare owner for over 20 years caring for countless children as her own. It wasn't unusual for special kids to drop in for a visit as young adults. As a member of Salem Lutheran Church in Peoria for 55 years, she kept busy teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, as a member of Esther Circle, Bible School, confirmation secretary, Altar Guild, working in the kitchen and anywhere else a need existed. She could be found playing the piano – great for her arthritis – to entertain anyone who needed a little pick-me-up.
Even though Illinois was her home for most of her life, her heart remained with the hills and people of the Dakotas. She was delighted to tell tales of her years growing up on the farm located on the Tewauken Sioux Reservation, dying her tights red as she aspired to be a trapeze artist, joining in Lakota (Sioux) festivities with her Lakota friend leading to her love of the Native American culture, attending and teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, pushing through snow drifts early in the morning to reach the school and build a fire before the children arrived. In her later years, she and Walt spent summers in the Dakotas where Ruby even joined a little combo whose mission was entertaining residents in area nursing homes to lighten the residents' spirits. Ruby enjoyed life and continued to share stories behind old photographs just a week before her death. It was rare to hear her say, "I don't remember." Ruby never forgot her friends and family who received notes and letters covered with “one more thought” scribbled on the envelope.
Interment will be in Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Havana, ND, in the spring of 2021. She will return to her beloved Dakotas and join her family once again in the cemetery of the rural church where she and Walt were married.
Memorials should be made to Salem Lutheran Church for the Building Fund. Because she always wanted to help those in need, she also suggested memorials to the ELCA Good Gifts Program. (goodgifts.elca.org)
Cremation rites have been accorded. A Celebration of Life can hopefully be planned for a later date at her church. To share a memory or to leave a condolence for her family, please visit www.peoriafuneral.com.
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