Ruth Anne Polk
May 19, 1926 – September 8, 2020
After a long life dedicated to teaching piano and serving her church, Ruth Anne Polk died on September 8, 2020 at the age of 94.
Born on May 19, 1926, in International Falls, Minn., Ruth Anne was the daughter of the Rev. Knud Olav Waage and Gunda (Peterson) Waage and was baptized by her father as a child of God as she began her journey of deep faith and religious commitment, especially to children.
Along with her parents; older brother Wesley; younger sister, Margaret; and her mother’s identical twin, Nellie Peterson, she grew up in Noonan, North Dakota. She received a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., specializing in organ performance.
On June 23, 1953, she was married to Leslie D. Polk of Williston, North Dakota, in Noonan, at a ceremony officiated by her father. With her husband, a journalist and later a journalism professor, she lived in Kansas City, Missouri; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Wilbraham, Mass.; and Eau Claire, Wis. – where she studied children’s literature at the graduate level at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Ruth Anne and her husband returned to the Kansas City area in 1986, settling in Lawrence. Leslie Polk died in 1990.
An accomplished organist and pianist, Ruth Anne taught piano in her home for more than 60 years to students of all ages and was passionate about passing along her love of music to all of them, but it was the children to whom she was the most dedicated. She took special pride in providing the perfect setting for the children’s recitals she hosted in her home, offering refreshments and creating keepsake programs for the parents.
She also served as a musician in several of the churches she attended. Until her death, she practiced the piano almost every day, lovingly bringing Mozart, Back and Chopin – her favorite composers – to life in her home.
Along with music, the church is a strong thread in the tapestry of her life. She took quiet pride in being the mother, daughter, granddaughter, aunt, great-aunt and sister-in-law of Lutheran pastors.
But she also made her own significant contributions. After becoming a proud charter member of two churches – Christ the King Lutheran in Wilbraham and University Lutheran in Eau Claire – Ruth Anne had been an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lawrence since 1986, where for decades she served as sacristan, preparing the altar and training children to serve as acolytes and crucifers. For the last many years of her life, she played the piano for a monthly worship service for seniors at the church. She was always keen to develop strong working relationships with her pastors and church musicians, and strong bonds often followed.
For the last seven years of her life, she played piano and served communion for a monthly worship service, which she and her pastor founded, at the retirement community in which she lived.
An avid reader, Ruth Anne especially enjoyed biographies and books on politics and presidential history. She adored her two great-grandsons, Maddox and Emmett, who never failed to bring a smile to her face and joy to her heart.
In addition to her great-grandsons, survivors include her son Leslie S. Polk and his wife, Jean; her son John W. Polk and his husband, Gino; and grandchildren William (Shannon), James (Kelsey) and Robin (Sean), a sister-in-law Muriel, a brother-in-law, Jim, a sister-in-law Marianne in addition to many beloved nieces and nephews. In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her middle son, Philip H. Polk, in 1996; her brother Wesley; sister, Margaret and brother-in-law Orville; brother-in-law Stuart and sister-in-law Eileen; and a niece, Phyllis.
A private burial service will take place at Forest Hill Cemetery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Memorial donations can be made to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lawrence, Kansas and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.