My mom is 93 years old today. She is my inspiration for a lifetime of creativity.

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

She was born Miriam RUTH Brug to George and Mollie Brug, Germans from Russia, immigrant sharecropper farmers, on March 14, 1931. They lived in a two-room house with no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water. The house was a few miles north of the small farming town of Windsor, Colorado. As an only child she grew up working on the farm weeding sugar beets, hoeing beans and corn in the field and helping her mom and aunt butcher chickens. She also learned to play the piano.

On August 17, 1952 she married my sister Judith’s and my Dad, Wilbert CHUCK Firestien. They also lived in a small two room shack without indoor plumbing, or running water for 6 months until she and Dad moved into the small house on the farm where she still lives. Dad and Mom raised me and my sister Judy in that house.

Mom began playing the piano at eight years old. She still remembers the day when her dad drove his farm truck into their yard with an old piano in the back that he had purchased at an auction.

When Mom was 15, the organist at her family’s church resigned. Before she knew it, Grandpa Brug had volunteered her for the job. Having only piano experience she had to wing it.

“It wasn’t easy those first few years.” she said. “Sometimes I had a hard time matching the words to the music because all of the words were in German, and I didn’t speak German.”

Mom was an organist for more than 100 weddings and 100 funerals between 1943 and 1997, a time spanning over 50 years. She even played weddings for the children of couples whose ceremonies she’s been involved with earlier in her career. Ruth formally resigned from her full-time organist position in 1997, but she still ties on her organ shoes when there is a need. That’s a total of over 70 years performing as an organist.

In 2012, Mom came out of musical retirement to start a women’s choir for the church. “I just thought we needed it,” she said. “There was a choir loft and no choir. It just didn’t seem right.”

Ruth didn’t only contribute musically to the church, she also taught children’s Sunday School. In 1973, Mom was the first woman to be the president of her church’s leadership council.

While raising Judy and me, Mom canned fruits and vegetables, grew a large garden and helped our Dad raise sheep. She was particularly busy during lambing season when she and Dad spent long nights in the cold Colorado winter in the sheep barn helping distressed ewes give birth. Throughout her life, Ruth has been a doer, a mover and a changemaker in the lives of those around her.

In addition to my mom’s love of music, she is an avid quilter, was a school photographer and even took calligraphy classes. Her quilting “body of work” includes over 300 quilted pieces.

Besides her creative endeavors, Mom served as coordinator for Project Linus for 12 years. Project Linus distributes handmade quilts and blankets to hospitalized children in Northern Colorado. When she was coordinator, she picked up blankets, washed them, labeled them and delivered the blankets to local hospitals. During her time with Project Linus, she distributed over 100 blankets and quilts to sick children.

In 2004, Mom and Dad had celebrated 52 years of marriage. On January 19 of that year, Dad was killed in a car accident.

I expected that Dad’s death would slow down Mom’s creative process, or at least reduce her creative productivity.

But for Mom, her creative productivity actually increased.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was really hard. I had all of this extra time,” she said. “After Chuck died, I came across this pattern that we bought years ago when he and I stopped at a quilt shop in Estes Park, CO. It was for stuffed bears. “

“I decided to make bears out of Chuck’s old clothes,” she said. My mom made these bears for my sister and me, and she made pillow tops out of his Dad’s old ties.

Mom’s memorial bears became so popular that she made 10 more custom bears for other relatives and friends who had lost their loved ones.

My mom’s advice for living a long and creatively productive life? “Get involved with your church or other organizations. Join a club. Always have a project in mind,” she says. “I usually have two or three projects going at one time. I alternate between three sewing machines and each one is for a different project.”

Most importantly she said, “don’t just sit around on your butt and do nothing.”

I can’t think of any better advice than that.

Happy Birthday Mom, we love you! 

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