Carnett: Pastor to the dying passes on

January 07, 2013|By Jim Carnett
  • Ruth Dutro, seen here in 2003 holding crosses she gave to patients to comfort them during their last days, has died.
Ruth Dutro, seen here in 2003 holding crosses she gave… (Daily Pilot File…)

A bright light in our midst has been extinguished.

Ruth Dutro, 84, was laid to rest Saturday at Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary in Costa Mesa.

A local resident for more than 70 years, Ruth suffered from a rare blood disorder. She lived in College Park for 53 years.

Ken, Ruth's husband, survives her. He's 86.

Ruth was born in Oklahoma City. Her family moved to Long Beach when she was 12. The family relocated to the Balboa Peninsula, then moved to Costa Mesa in 1942, when Ruth was a freshman at Newport Harbor High School. She graduated in 1946.

"We moved to Costa Mesa during World War II," she told me in a 2009 interview. "A two-lane road, Newport Boulevard, ran through the heart of town. The downtown area was a cluster of buildings two blocks long.

"Costa Mesa was a sleepy place. You could fire off a cannon downtown and never hit a soul."


Ruth's parents owned a mom-and-pop grocery store in Costa Mesa, at 15th Street and Orange Avenue. Her father was a butcher.

Safeway was then the only major grocery store in town.

"It was a different world then," she said. "We never locked our front doors or our cars. I'd walk with my friends to the Lido Theater in Newport to see a movie. We'd walk back after dark and never worry about a thing. I was a high-school girl, but I wasn't a bit afraid.

"It was a beautiful time, really."

She married shortly after high school and had a son, Larry Sanford. The marriage didn't last.

She served as a den mother when Larry was in the Boy Scouts. That was when she met Ken, who was a troop leader. Ken lived in Costa Mesa and taught construction classes at El Camino College in Torrance.

Ken and Ruth were married at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach in 1966. Married for 46 years, they were devoted to one another.

She went on to earn undergraduate degrees from Orange Coast College and Cal State Fullerton, and then a graduate degree from Vanguard University.

"She was really something," Ken said last week.

They dedicated themselves to their joint ministry. They served as pastors for three decades, ministering to senior adults and the dying.

"When we first became pastors," Ruth said in 2009, "we weren't into preaching, we were into people. That's never changed."

For the last decade-and-a-half they served as hospice chaplains, praying with and counseling more than 2,000 dying patients of all ages. They were at the bedsides of hundreds of patients as they died, and also conducted hundreds of funerals.

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