Ruth Altendorf and Martin Weidemann planning to produce “The Tree,” circa 1994. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

HISTORY: Honouring Ruth Altendorf, community champion

Columnist Lindsay Foreman shares her memories of Harrison’s Ruth Altendorf

I compose this column with a heavy heart, still deeply saddened, as are many of you, by the passing of one of our community champions: Ruth Altendorf. Let us take some time to honour her in print, given her many contributions to our local newspapers over the past three decades.

(N.B. A search of the Observer website produced 81 articles penned by Ruth between 2011 and 2017 — and that is just what is digitized.)

Read Ruth Altendorf’s stories here

Passionate, kind, a performer — both singer and actress — and outdoor enthusiast, Ruth was also an advocate, author, humanitarian and supporter of heritage, arts and culture.

Always ready with a smile, welcoming greeting and her characteristic laugh, Ruth led the ultimate “inclusive” lifestyle.

I met Ruth last summer when she first asked about the museum’s interest in acquiring items from her community activities during the ’90s and 2000s. She had recently moved to Logan Manor from her home in Harrison Hot Springs and wanted to ensure these items were held in trust for the community and properly cared for.

So started my monthly visits with Ruth.

We got together on Tuesday afternoons. I would bring an empty bankers box and my donor form; Ruth would have some items ready to share and discuss with me. Usually, she had a guest for me to meet, ever increasing my community network.

Sometimes she would ask me to bring my “little recorder” so we could document the important life stories of some of our community members. Once in a while, we would have a glass of white wine together (after our work was done of course), during which she would hint about what I could help her tackle next.

I looked forward to our visits, always wondering what Ruth would have for me that month, and what she would want to talk about. Here, I include images of a few of unique items Ruth donated to the museum last year.

Harrison Hot Springs Recreation Commission Harrison Hikers t-shirt, circa 1990s. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

One of the most important achievements, as far as Ruth was concerned, was relocating and transporting the Harrison Hot Springs Recreation Commission Records safely to the museum.

Ruth worked through the summer and early fall of 2018 to locate these records, dating from 1989 through the 1990s, with the help of Ed Stenson.

Within the seven boxes of documents are records of the earliest members of the Harrison Hikers group and the Multicultural Choir, as well as information about a variety of market events and plays put on at Memorial Hall. Each visit with Ruth provided me with greater insight into her role as a community event orchestrator, and just how far her reach was — even to hiking groups in Washington State.

And let’s not forget about Ruth’s passion for food and cookbooks, or her musings about Sasquatch.

A selection of Ruth Altendorf’s books. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

She continued to write into 2019, publishing her thoughts and stories with the help of her son-in-law Phil Goodis. We are fortunate to have copies of her articles in the newspaper archives at the museum, in addition to copies of her more recent books: Logging: A Most Important Part of Canadian History, The Forgotten Cookbook, and Hiking and Walking Sasquatch.

It was truly a privilege to all of us that Ruth and her husband Heinz chose to “retire” in our community. Their appetite for life has inspired us, and will continue to inspire for decades to come.

The Agassiz-Harrison Museum is honoured to curate their memories, and is please to provide viewing access to any or all of these items. A special thank you goes out to Joan Vogsta, who has worked tirelessly over the past several months to accession Ruth’s donations to our collection.

Please feel free to contact us at agassizharrisonmuseum@shawbiz.ca or 604-796-3545 to view Ruth’s collection.

-Lindsay Foreman is the manager and curator at the Agassiz Harrison Museum



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