Cover photo for Ruth Ann Whittenburg's Obituary
Ruth Ann Whittenburg Profile Photo

Ruth Ann Whittenburg

July 6, 1929 — February 3, 2024

Spencer

Ruth Ann Whittenburg

Ruth Ann Whittenburg was born July 6, 1929, to Elma (Seaton) Ziegler and Lee Ziegler at home on her parents’ farm near Varina, Iowa. She began her education at age 5, attending country school. Her early high school years were in Laurens, Iowa, where she played the saxophone in the school band seeding a lifelong love of music. Following a move to Spencer, Ruth Ann attended Spencer High School for her junior and senior school years, graduating in 1947. On October 17, 1948, Ruth Ann married Charles (Chuck) Whittenburg. During high school, Ruth Ann began working as a telephone operator at Bell Telephone. Following her marriage, she continued that employment while Chuck operated a service station in Langdon. Ruth Ann and Chuck began married life living in the back room of the Langdon station. Soon Chuck began operating Chuck’s Log Cabin, a popular tavern in south Spencer and their first child, daughter Cindy, was born whereupon the family moved to Spencer. Following Cindy’s birth, Ruth left her position at Bell, a job she dearly loved and took pride in throughout her life, to become a homemaker. Three more children followed in the ensuing years; Charley, Nancy, and Robert (Bob). As their family grew, so did Ruth Ann and Chuck’s enterprising spirit. In 1957, Ruth Ann and Chuck purchased the local Anheuser-Busch distributorship. Together they were a formidable team, growing this new venture together into a successful and respected business.

Ruth Ann truly lived a full, rich life. She was a homemaker, entrepreneur, business partner, community volunteer, and philanthropist. She was also a loving mother, grandmother, and supportive wife. In business with Chuck, she was his equal partner. She was a curious individual who was always engaged in life and with people. The distributorship allowed Ruth to meet many individuals from all walks of life of life across northwest Iowa. She immensely enjoyed visiting and making friends with all those folks and had a deep appreciation and respect for their stories and the contributions each made to the life of their communities.

Among her numerous pursuits, Ruth Ann volunteered as a Sunday School teacher during her children’s childhoods, was a Cub Scout Den Mother, a Spencer Hospital Auxiliary Pink Lady for twenty years, delivered Meals-on-Wheels, a Democratic Party volunteer, Congregational Women’s Circle member, and TTT 50-year member. In the 1970’s, at the behest of her former son-in-law, she started what became a very successful business selling fish from the trunk of her Cadillac to area homemakers. Reading and music were very important to Ruth Ann. She belonged to a book club and always had a book in progress. Education and literacy were important to her. She attended a multitude of musical performances in her lifetime and enjoyed home concerts performed for her by her grandchildren on their band instruments. It was common to visit her and find either Willie Nelson, Leon Redbone, or Frank Sinatra playing on her stereo. Until age prevented it, she was a regular at the Saturday night greenspace concerts. Ruth Ann also loved local and college sports favoring the Iowa Hawkeyes.
 
 Ruth Ann was a curious and engaged person. When her children were young, she belonged to a vibrant 500 card club and bowled in Tuesday afternoon women’s league. She took up golf in mid-life, enrolled in ILCC Third-Age College classes in later life, and travelled the United States by bus following Chuck’s death. As usual, she made friends instantly on those trips, many of whom stayed connected with her until the time of her death. Together with Chuck, she contributed to many community organizations over her life-time including, but not limited to, the Spencer Hospital Foundation, the YMCA, Historic Arnolds Park, and the Spencer Community School Foundation where she endowed a scholarship following Chuck’s death to support graduating students pursuing a career in the trades based upon a strong belief that those future workers are the backbone of small town communities in Iowa like those she an Chuck inhabited and flourished in during their lives.

Ruth Ann had an abiding love of Lake Okoboji taking her children there on day trips to the beaches in the 1960’s. In the mid-1970’s, at her behest, a summer cottage was purchased and for the next forty-plus years, Ruth Ann made the most wonderful memories of the lake for her family to forever cherish.

Ruth had a strength and determination that carried her during her entire life including to its very end. Determined to remain in her home, she did so with the assistance of many loving and caring home health caretakers over the last months of her life and the support of her children. She had so many wonderful stories of her rich, well-lived life from dancing at the Roof Garden and Central Ballrooms as a teenager, to her adventures with Chuck in business, and her wonderful memories of family life, which she generously shared to the delight of all. She died at home late on Friday night with Willie Nelson singing softly in the background and son Bob by her side.

Ruth Ann was preceded in death by her parents, her brother and sister-in-law Dale and Helen Ziegler, and husband Charles Whittenburg. She is survived by her daughter, Cindy (Kevin) Christensen; son Charley (Nancy) Whittenburg; daughter, Nancy (Gary Nelsen) Whittenburg; and son, Robert (Heather) Whittenburg; nine beloved grandchildren Heidi (Brian) Hancock; Bridgette (Nate) Schmidt; Joseph Christensen; Elizabeth (John) Girling; Peter (Sierra) Christensen; Harry Whittenburg-Nelsen; Emma Whittenburg; Pearl Whittenburg; Vivian Whittenburg; and thirteen great-grandchildren.

Ruth Ann’s family wishes to express their heartfelt and special thank you to her care team who provided loving care to her including Dr. Keith, David Tewes, R.N., Spencer Hospital Hospice, and the many in-home health care providers who gave the care necessary for Ruth Ann to live out her days in the comfort of her home.

In her final act of generosity, Ruth Ann donated her body to the University of Iowa College of Medicine to benefit the education of future doctors.

Honorary Pallbearers: Larry Lee, Donny Kiepe, and Jerry Backstrom.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given in Ruth Ann’s memory to TTT-Chapter BP or the Spencer Public Library.

To view the livestream of the Memorial Service, click the link below:

https://youtube.com/live/Gs2X6tAmshY.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ruth Ann Whittenburg, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, February 9, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Central time)

First Congregational Church

1212 1st Ave W, Spencer, IA 51301

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Memorial Service

Friday, February 9, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

First Congregational Church

1212 1st Ave W, Spencer, IA 51301

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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