Ruth Carol Egeland, 74, Keokuk, formerly of Estherville, long-time educator and advocate for the handicapped, died at 12:08 am July 19, 2014 at Keokuk Area Hospital.
She was born September 26, 1939, at Wallingford, Iowa, to Jens Sigurd and Margaret Bevan Egeland. They preceded her in death. She was also preceded in death by four brothers, Richard, Jack and two in infancy.
Ruth is survived by her companion of 49 years, Rita Noe of Keokuk. Survivors also include four brothers and four sisters: Donald (Marilyn) Egeland of Ossian IA; Jim Egeland of Spirit Lake IA; Mary Ellen Inbody of Spirit Lake IA; Betty (Jerry) Schichtl of Estherville IA; Phyllis Palmer of Rock Rapids IA; Bill (Judy) Egeland of Postville IA; Carolyn (Rich) Petersen of Sioux Falls SD; David (Jeanne) Egeland of Estherville IA. Also surviving are 30 nieces and nephews, 60+ great-nieces and nephews, and twin great-great niece and nephew.
Ms Egeland graduated from Estherville IA High School, 1957 and Estherville Junior College, 1959. She received her bachelor's degree in physical education from Iowa State Teachers College, Cedar Falls, 1961; and master's degree in guidance counseling from University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, 1966. She taught physical education at West Union Junior/Senior High School for two years.
A spinal cord injury in 1963 that left her a paraplegic changed her focus in education to counseling. She joined Keokuk Junior High School staff as a guidance counselor from 1966 through 1990. From 1990 to 2001 she worked as a partner with Rita at Shagbark Studio, a graphic arts business. During this time she also worked two years as a social worker at Eagle Summit.
Ruth's tireless efforts for the rights of the disabled earned her the title Handicapped Iowan of the Year in 1983 by Governor Terry Branstad. In 1984 she was named Distinguished Handicapped American by President Ronald Reagan's Committee for Employment of the Handicapped. She was a finalist for the President's Trophy in recognition of outstanding personal and professional contributions to public awareness of the independent disabled adult.
n Helped found Tri-State Coalition for the Handicapped, which established city-wide handicap access (curb cuts), and group homes for the mentally challenged;
n Served on a national panel that wrote the Americans with Disabilities Act;
n Served on an Iowa committee that wrote state laws on handicap accessibility;
n Served on a national church panel on handicap accessibility issues;
n Spoke at local and state levels about handicap awareness.
Ruth was a member of Estherville Lutheran Church until 1966, and St. Paul United Church of Christ in Keokuk, where she served on the Consistory as president, youth leader, chair of Personnel committee, taught summer Vacation Bible School, and served as an Elder. She participated in several CROP Walks, wheeling her chair from Montrose to Rand Park.
She also served on the Keokuk Art Center board of directors; Keokuk Kiwanis as secretary, Keokuk Sister Cities, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Thunderbird Society, which named her an honored elder in January 2014 for her work with international relations. She and Rita participated in the Amity Institute program by sharing their home for extended stays of 13 teacher aides of French and Spanish languages and numerous teachers of English from Japan.
"Ruth was especially for the underdog when it came to kids who felt they didn't have anyone else to stand up for them," Rita said. "Many a 7th-grader learned how to rake leaves and pick up sticks, in addition to identifying wild flowers, on our property."
A celebration of her life will be 2-4 pm Sunday, Aug. 3 at Keokuk Middle School cafeteria. Former students are encouraged to share or write comments concerning their experiences with Ms. Egeland. Refreshments will be served.
A celebration of life service also will be held from 1-4 p.m., Sept. 13 at the Estherville Lutheran Church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Paul UCC, Keokuk Area Group Home or Keokuk Sister Cities.