Ruth Gossen


Ruth Gossen was born July 30, 1927. She was a Depression-era girl, but her mother molded her as a scholar. And a scholar she was.

Born Ruth Vinette Sweeney, she was the youngest daughter of six children. “Donna is the pretty one,” Ruth’s mother said of Ruth’s older sister. “You’ll have to be smart.”

Smart didn’t get in the way of falling for a handsome cowboy when she was just 20. She had completed two years of community college and traveled west to her uncle’s farm in Montana. She was so exhausted when she got there she lay down on a few sacks of concrete and fell asleep. Theodore “Ted”  John Gossen, 12 years her senior, saw her lying there and fell for her immediately.

“She looked so innocent,” he said. They met at harvest-time and married in December. A bouncing baby girl was born 10 months later.

Ruth adapted to farm life. She cooked every day for the crew. She was spunky. Ted taught her how to drive. One day she drove into town and became engrossed in one of her favorite activities, shopping. A terrible storm came up and washed out the bridge to their farm. She didn’t mind the storm, but she knew she was late and she sped home. Coming to the swollen stream, she noticed the bridge missing, but she was going so fast she just flew over the stream. When she got home, Ted and all the hired hands looked at her and said, “How did you get across the bridge?” She said, “What bridge?”

Ruth adapted to farm life but found it lonely. After three years and the birth of a second child, Ted and Ruth moved from Scobey, Mont., to Brush, Colo., and Ruth went back to school.  

She ended up raising three children, caring for Ted in his final illness and earning her Ed.D. at 59. She taught everything from K-6 in a country school to community college to alternative high school to teaching on an Indian reservation.

In the country school, she threw out the grammar books and had the kids perform a play. The lower performing students jumped two grade levels in reading by the end of the year. Ruth passed on the legacy she had received from her mother and saved her money toward the education of her children.

Ruth was endlessly generous. In her earlier years, she took calls at all hours of the day and night to support people in crisis through the local crisis hotline in Fort Morgan, Colo. She noticed the needs of people around her and offered food, a bath or a new hairdo—whatever was needed at the time.

Although she spent the last 11 years of her life in Grand Junction, Colo., near her daughter, she always considered Custer, S.D., to be home.

Ruth died June 17, 2019. She was 91. 

She was preceded in death by her husband, Theodore John Gossen; son, Larry Bryce Gossen; daughters, Linda Gossen Eisenman of Sacramento, Calif., and Debra Gossen Dobbins of Grand Junction; grandson, Dylan Dobbins, and three great-grandchildren, Indica Skye Dobbins;  Kytan Sol Dobbins, and Jasper Wallace Dobbins.  

A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Sept. 28 at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.