CALEDONIA — Ruth Ann Behling, 76, of Belvidere, Illinois, passed away on April 28, 2022.
This year’s spring flowers bloom in memory of her — the woman who most often could be found in the garden she lovingly tended to on the southwest corner of Orth and Olson roads.
The contents of her floral oasis were the personification of her. The daffodils as bright as her smile, the wisteria vine as sweet as her voice, the sunflowers as inviting and cheerful as her presence.
Ruth Ann lived most of her life as a caretaker: of farmland, her family and her flowers. Born on July 10, 1945 in Rochelle, Illinois, she was the daughter of Ruth L. Stroud and Fred A. Nordman, who rented and farmed land in and around Boone County. Ruth Ann attended North Boone High School and worked for a time at St. Joseph Hospital and Arnold Engineering. Lynn Ackerman, one of Ruth Ann’s six siblings, was the one who told a friend, Harold Behling, that he should take her sister out on a date. Five months later, Harold and Ruth Ann married on Aug. 23, 1969 at Immanuel Lutheran Church. It would mark the beginning of Ruth Ann’s time on the centennial farm in Caledonia where she and Harold shared almost 53 years together.
They built a house on the farm, where they loved and raised three boys: Dean, Jim and Ron. As the boys grew, so did the house, addition after addition. She gained the daughters she never had in her daughter-in-laws, and she was blessed with five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
With endless energy, Ruth Ann was always doing something, whether it was hauling corn to town, pulling the bailer, mowing the yard or kneeling on hands and knees in the garden. She loved being outside, especially in the spring, but when she wasn’t, she was keeping her house meticulously clean and orderly, because someone had to make sure Harold and the boys didn’t drag in mud from the farm. She’d cook big, delicious dinners of goulash, barbecue, lasagna and brisket, and when the grandkids came over, there seemed to always be fresh cookies ready to eat. She could make anything with whatever three ingredients she had on hand. Through food, love and hospitality, she acted as her family’s centerpoint. She made everyone feel welcome who walked through her door, and she made everything look effortless.
She loved ceramics, crafting, antiques and hand-making gifts and cards. Tuesday nights were her ceramic classes, where she met a lifelong friend, Kim Harms, and she bowled in a league for many years with Harold. If decorating for the holidays were an Olympic sport, Ruth Ann might have medaled. She worked at Immanuel Lutheran Church for a while, where she attended church every Saturday, and she went to classes at Rock Valley College to become a CNA at Cor Mariae.
While she kept busy, she always had time for her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. She was known to so many as patient, kind and friendly. If she was having a bad day, you wouldn’t know it. If she was having a good day, you would know it if you called, because she’d answer the phone saying “Joe’s Bar.”
Ruth Ann was close with her siblings: Bob (Shirley) Nordman, Don (Marge) Nordman, Jack (Helen) Nordman, Fred Nordman and Lynn (Don) Ackerman.
Ruth Ann is survived by her husband, Harold; her children and their spouses, Dean (Andrea) Behling, Jim (Denise) Behling and Ron (Kathy) Behling; her grandchildren and their spouses, Samantha (Ken) Abbott, Ashley (Mike) Oursler, Alicia (Justin) Thompson, Trenton Behling and Landon Behling; her great-grandchildren, Aric, Maddy, John, Maverick, Aria, Amelia and Maise Paige; and numerous nieces and nephews. Ruth Ann is preceded in death by her parents and all of her siblings but Jack.
It was characteristic of Ruth Ann not to want anyone to worry or fuss over her, even in her battle with cancer. Ruth Ann’s wishes were to not have services, but memorial contributions can be made by donating blood in her memory, or you can donate to her memorial fund at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
When you see spring’s first patch of short, purple crocus pop up from the ground, or the petals of a tulip open wide, or a honeybee land on the face of a zinnia under a hot summer sun — think of Ruth Ann.