Juanita Ruetz

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Juanita Ruetz went home to glory on the Lord’s Day, February 28, 2016.
A daughter of Spencer and Minnie Greene Potter, she was born in their two-room house on June 7, 1932. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 43 years, Gerhard G. Ruetz; her beloved uncle and aunt, Roscoe and Ina Mae Potter; and an infant sister, Dorthey Ann.
An honors graduate of Jonesboro High School and East Tennessee State College, she studied under Mrs. Jess Patton Hayworth, Robert Dix Lincoln and Paul Salamunovich, among others. From a humorous and memorable experience with Salamunovich, and the legendary Robert Shaw, she often reminded her students that they must try a little harder, as “God has perfect pitch.”
A longtime member of King Springs Church of Christ, Mrs. Ruetz was baptized into the Lord’s church at age 11, and remained faithful throughout her life.
Her Aunt Mae taught her how to play the piano at age 5. She excelled and, despite her youth, soon was in demand as an accompanist in churches and the Washington County Singing Convention.
For nearly 50 years, Mrs. Ruetz taught piano and choral music, both privately and in the public school systems of Norfolk, Va.; Johnson City; and Washington County. As a private teacher, her Hayworth Music Club was comprised of some of the area’s finest young piano students.
Mrs. Ruetz was twice selected for “Outstanding Young Women of the Year,” and Who’s Who Among American College Students. She was a longtime member of Who’s Who in American High Schools and Universities. Within two classes of finishing her master’s degree in library science, she talked of living the “quiet life” of a librarian. That notion died for lack of a second.
She was a former member of the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra board of directors, and that of the Eller Family Association. She was a former member, and always affectionate toward Jonesborough’s charming Schubert Club, and after retirement she greatly enjoyed membership in the Johnson City Monday Club/GFWC, for which she helped organize music and visiting performers for several years.
In 1967, encouraged by her aunt, and then-Johnson City Mayor May Ross McDowell, she formed a Washington County group that eventually became the Tennessee Singing Republicans. With the active support (iron will) of Mayor McDowell, then-Congressman James H. “Jimmy” Quillen, and then-U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., that 40-member ensemble would become the first non-professional group to perform at a national political convention.
In 1969, along with her adored friend and collaborator Shirley Ann Chinouth, she organized the Johnson City Centennial Singers, and the year spent performing around the region in honor of the city’s 100th birthday with her beloved singing friends was one of her most cherished memories.
Groups under her direction performed from the Watauga Academy reunion in Butler to the World’s Fair in Knoxville. Selected as Friendship Ambassadors by the Reader’s Digest/DeWitt Wallace Foundation, she led a group of students on a 15-day performance tour throughout Spain.
Mrs. Ruetz directed the music for several productions at the Johnson City Community Theater beginning about 1965. She was a charter member of the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, and organized a large choral group which traveled to Nashville to perform This Then is Tennessee, the theater’s first production, for Statehood Days in 1970.
She directed the music for the 90-member cast of Toward The Setting Sun, a local production that helped revive the JRT in 2001.
In retirement, she became a mother once more — to the vast family of friends who gathered each summer at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area to produce Liberty!, Tennessee’s Official Outdoor Drama. For 13 years, she worked tirelessly as the one-woman team of researcher, musical, blocking and script consultant, promoter and “No. 1 Fan.”
Survivors include her daughter, Damaris Ruetz, of Franklin; her son, Jon Ruetz, of Jonesborough; several cousins, including Margaret Anne Berry, Dr. Joyce Potter, Gary Potter, Ronnie Potter, Gina Delaney, Susan Potter, Sharon Bowers, Mickey Deason, Janet G. McKee, Alpha Bridger, Lowell Greene, Steve Greene, Rick Storey, Elijah Berry and Marlee Berry; and her lifelong friends she considered to be sisters, Elizabeth Maden and Joyce Dean Garrison. Her treasured, eternally loyal dog, Casey, also mourns her passing.
A celebration of the life of Juanita Ruetz will be held Friday at 7 p.m. in the chapel of Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home, Highway 11-E in Jonesborough. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m., prior to the service, officiated by Bro. Bill Manuel. Former students and friends will perform music, accompanied by Dr. Sharon Rush. Pallbearers — who loved, cared for and honored her in life — will include: Tony Maden; Chris Webb; Shawn Griffith; Craig Ford; Scott Pratt; Dr. Ken Turner Sr.; Kathy Torgerson; Lise Cutshaw; Brian Ponder; Hon. Don Squibb; Parise Griffith and Hon. Matthew Hill. The list of honorary pallbearers is a roll of honor — and only a partial one — of her unforgettable students and friends, recipients of her boundless love who brightened and enriched the rhythm of her life. It includes her beloved brothers and sisters from King Springs Church of Christ: Bill and Alma Carter; Norman Simerly; Sheila Wood; Mike and Sue Hubbard; Winfred and Jane Sluder; Helen Hughes; Penny Townsend; Jean May; Joyce Jones; Jim “Jim Bo” Little; Brandon Maddox; Samantha Maddox; Malachi Paloian; Leonard and Mary Johnson; and Ken and Anita Worley; and dear ones always in her memories, thoughts and prayers, including: Bill Beals; Clyde Garrison; J. Craig Orfield; Bo Deaton; Frank Knisley; Dr. Thomas Jenrette; Robert Dix Lincoln; Hobart Powell; Robert Murray; Mattie Mullins; Andrew Mullins; Becky Starnes; Sanda Salts; Artavan Hart; Claude “Cosmo” Griffith; John Judd; Karen Judd; Randy Hilbert; Rodney Metcalf; Logan Metcalf; Angie Metcalf; Gerald McInturff; Janet G. McKee; Maybell Stewart; Martha Reed; Joel Blake; Todd Essig; Billie Ann Rogers; Lynette Poe; Mary Manuel; Deborah Lowery; Jean Campbell; Christine Keys; Elizabeth Smith; Mark Smith; Phyllis Fox; Becky McNeese; Patricia Ivens; Mike Ivens; Greg Ivens; Brad Ivens; Donna Saylor; Brenda Vaughn; Sara Davis; Jon Etter; Caroline May; Mike May; Kathryn May; Robert M. May II; Anita Miller; Jeana MacGregor; Thomas Ervin; Bobbye Webb; Linda Cookenhour; Fred Goodwin; Jack Leonard; Sarah Vaughn; Susan Painter; Johnny Painter; Howard Alexander; Brian Fritts; Steve Fritts; Wenny Elrod; Charles Locke; Phil Groos; LeAnn Simmerman; Laura Evans; Karen Chraska; Debbie Thomas; LuAnn Davenport; Brian Scott; Laura Fleming; Sherri Renfro; Karen Ramsey; Vince Walters; Eric Rowe; Jon Rogers; Tom Madison; Mike Bates; Joe May; Josh Grizzle; Gina Grizzle; Terry Austin; Teresa Hensley; Alan Campbell; Rick Chinouth; Josephine Hemphill; Jennifer Price; Peggy Wright; Tim Wright; Liz McCoy; Lori Krigbaum; Nathan Wilson; David Decker; Tim Decker; Richard Antone; Barbara Elliott; Penny Lowe; Lisa Bennett; Ouita Lands; Sharon Bennett; Tammy Reed; Phil Harris; Kristi Waddle; Tina Whitson; Adrienne Weaver; Lisa Childers; Carole Campbell-Smith; Santo Cicerello; Sal Cicerello; David Cicerello; Susan Jacobs; Kathy Whitson; Dr. Richard W. Phillips; Lucy Phillips; Dr. James R. Pierce; Jane Gray Collier; Glen Rose; John Rose; Wes Ford; Artie Edwards; Thelma Crumley; Dr. Roberta Herrin; Mike Grumka; Ron Dykes; Henry Scott; Hon. Jimmy Neil Smith; Ann Hodge; “Lightnin’ Charlie” Dolinger; Terri Bowling; Eugenia Bowling; David Arney; Tammy Allen; Cole Allen; Effie Barnett; Martha Keplinger; Shirley Barwick; Dr. Elizabeth Bailey; Dr. Wilene Paxton; Mike Carson; Danny Reece; Diana O’Neal; Russell Jackson; Kevin Vines; Sandy Smith; Marty Henley; Sara Riddle; Ellen Huffine; Tom Riddle; Rick Beeson; Bruce Lynch; Dena Hensley; Vicki Boyd; Mary Nell McIntyre; Kim Faulkner; Chris Hilemon; Cassandra Scott; Brian Garland; Steven Pruitt; Melanie Moore; Ambers Wilson; Herb Roberts; Jennifer Bauer; Michael Barnett; Dr. Paul Gabinet; Hon. Ginger Jilton; Hon. Don Arnold; Hon. Timothy Hill; Hon. Micah Van Huss; Hon. John Rambo; Michael Hartman; Harriet Carr; Butch Carr; Lauretta Greene; Sharon Nourse; and John Seward Jr. We humbly offer heartfelt gratitude to the nurses on the 5500 block of Johnson City Medical Center, who fought for her life for 28 days, and saved it; the nurses and therapists at NHC, who made it possible for her to rise up and go back home; the staff of Amedysis Home Health, especially Laurie and Amy; Dr. Ellen Nave and her staff; Dr. Melanie Davidson and Dr. Jeff Schoondyke and the staff at Karing Hearts; Dr. Allyson Bohlman and the staff at TrueLight Eye Care; and her buddy, Dr. Randy Moze. The list of “Momma Rue’s kids” is innumerable. If she touched your life, you are warmly invited to join in, and honor her last earthly journey, when her remains will be brought to the hilltop of her family’s farm that was donated almost a century ago for Highland Church of Christ Cemetery on Highland Church Road. The graveside service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m., and will also be officiated by Bro. Manuel. Momma was a loving and giving person. Though of modest means, throughout her life she tried to help others as much as she could. She was deeply concerned about the plight of abused and endangered women. She donated to and helped raise money for the Shepherd’s Inn, P.O. Box 2214, Elizabethton, TN 37643. She loved our veterans, working to support and assist them throughout her life, especially through the Lend Lease (US) Community Fund, 1801 West End Avenue, Suite 1700, Nashville, TN 37203 (an organization dedicated to supporting our military families). She worried about the needy and impoverished, and donated to and helped raise money for Good Samaritan Ministries, 100 N. Roan Street, Johnson City, TN 37601. And her heart was touched by saving the elephants. She donated to The Elephant Sanctuary, 27 E. Main Street, P.O. Box 393, Hohenwald, TN 38462 (www.elephants.com). Condolences may be sent to the Ruetz family online at www.dillow-taylor.com.
Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Jonesborough, (423) 753-3821, is in charge.

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