Ruth Ann Carlson honored for 40 years as 4-h leader years ago


Staff writer

Ruth Ann Carlson, Lincolnville, was recognized Nov. 2 at the 2007 Marion County 4-H awards banquet for 40 years of service as a 4-H leader for the Lincolnville Wide-Awake Club.

"I never even thought about it that night until they announced it," she said.

She is passionate about 4-H and the opportunities it provides for practical learning experiences.

She has been involved in 4-H most of her life and decries the decline in young people in rural communities.

"At one time, there were 62 children east of U.S.-77 at Lincolnville," she said. "Now there are few. There were 12 clubs in the county. Now there only are six."

At present, Lincolnville Wide-Awake Club has nine members. They meet in homes.

The 81-year-old community activist grew up on a farm near Clements and took on many family responsibilities after her mother died in 1941.

Ruth Ann learned how to patch and sew in 4-H, something she has enjoyed doing and teaching throughout her life.

Her first time away from home came when she attended a 4-H camp at Camp Wood at Elmdale.

After graduation from high school, Ruth Ann became a teacher. She met her husband, Joyce, while teaching at Burdick. They were married in August 1946, at her father's home.

After the couple had several children, Ruth Ann's father encouraged her to pass on the skills she had learned in 4-H to her children and others in her community.

"It's what you learned in 4-H that kept the family together," he told her.

In November 1958, the Lincolnville Wide-Awake 4-H Club was chartered. The Carlsons' four children became involved as they came of age.

Ruth Ann said club leader Hilda Lehman asked her in 1967 to get involved. Her first position was as project leader in poultry. She went on to head many other types of projects.

In 1972, the club partnered with Kenny Rindt to open a concession stand and establish a community ball field.

"We got enough help from everyone in the community to get a backstop, toilet, and some balls and bats," Ruth Ann said.

This past summer, she still could be seen operating the concession stand during ball games.

In 1978, with Joyce's support, Ruth Ann became the club leader, a position she still holds today.

A new meeting place

The club originally met in the American Legion hall at Lincolnville.

It moved to the new Marion County/Lincolnville 4-H Recreation Center in May 1974, after the facility was erected using a citizens-in-action grant from Southwestern Bell as seed money plus additional support from the county, community contributors, and a bank loan. The building was dedicated the following July 4.

Sometimes, as many as 80 meetings were held there in one year. Ruth Ann and Bill Broce taught hunter safety courses at the building for many years.

For all intents and purposes, the 4-H club assumed responsibility for the new building. Members kept it clean, and maintenance problems were handled by 4-H leaders and their spouses.

The Carlsons' three sons — Ronnie, Duane, and Marcus — married and raised their children in the community.

So Ruth Ann became a 4-H leader to her grandchildren, as well. (Her daughter Judy's three children in Wichita also are involved in 4-H.)

She has been a judge at many county fairs and has given talks and demonstrations at regional 4-H events.

Lincolnville Wide-Awake 4-H Club will be 50 years old in 2008. A celebration is being planned.

After so many years as a 4-H leader, Ruth Ann gets teary-eyed as she contemplates giving it up.

"We will be 50 years old next year," she said. "After that I'm out, I think."

As for the 40 years?

"The whole thing isn't the 40 years," she said. "It's what you've done along the way."