Ruth Henke, 70, of Waldwick, NJ passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones on Friday, May 28, 2021. Ruth was born July 6, 1950 to Angel and Cruz (nee Montanez) Rodriguez in Manhattan.
Ruth was born in Manhattan but moved to Puerto Rico for a short period during high school before moving back to the Bronx. During her time there, she was hit with a baseball and blinded in her left eye. She called it her bad eye. Lord help you if you came up on her left and scared her. In 1969, Ruth (Mom) met John Henke (Pop) while they both worked at Telerate in Manhattan. Ruth caught John’s eye and though she initially snubbed his advances, he eventually won her over. Because she lived on Grand Concourse, John teased her saying they were dating just so he could watch Yankee games. They became inseparable and married in 1974. Their first son Peter was born in 1976. Later that year they moved to a little house in Waldwick, NJ, which became their home for the rest of their lives. Their second son Michael was born in 1979. Mom and Pop loved watching the original Star Trek on TV and their favorite movies over and over again, specifically Dirty Dancing. In 2004, Ruth lost her beloved Johnnie and never remarried.
Holidays, vacations and countless backyard cookouts were spent with lifelong friends Gayle and Ronnie and their kids Laurie, Robert and Krystin. She spoke regularly with her cousin Yvette and loved when she was able to visit her. There were regular visits to Puerto Rico to see her younger sister Eva, her Titi Panchi who she considered her second mother and lots of extended family. Peter and Michael were able to go when they were younger and have plenty of hilarious stories to share. Eva tragically died of breast cancer in 1993. After that, though she was always terrified she’d receive bad news, Mom unfailingly went for her yearly checkups.
Mom was a deeply religious woman whose faith was one of her strongest attributes. Her daughter-in-law called her a Platinum Level Catholic. She believed in the goodness of all people and forgiveness for everyone. She would pray for everyone else, never herself and would always thank God and remind us to do so. Mom loved God and her family above all else followed closely by her beloved dogs, Bailey (My Boy), who passed over the rainbow bridge in 2019 and Mia (Mama Mia). Holidays and birthdays were always shared together. She called each of us every birthday morning to sing happy birthday. No birthday was complete until we were all together in person or on a group call/FaceTime, singing happy birthday totally off key, very loud and absurdly bad.
If it was Disney related, Mom was on board and Minnie was her absolute favorite character. Disney World was truly the happiest place on earth for Mom. She and Pop booked several vacations there and afterward they were fondly called “Henke projects”. An avid fan of General Hospital, she’d been watching the show since the late 60s or early 70’s – we’re not totally sure, but it’s been a long time. Christmas truly was the most wonderful time of the year for her and because of her, for us. Golden oldies were her favorite music and she was frequently found in the kitchen singing along (or humming when she didn’t know the words). Some of Mom’s fears included thunder, the big trees around her house during windstorms, driving when snow was on the ground and bugs of any kind.
Mom was a car dealer’s dream. She never racked up more than 3,000-5,000 miles a year. There were frequent outings with her best friend Patty to the mall with lunch at Panera and Chester, NJ for window-shopping. No week would’ve been complete without church at St. Luke’s on Saturday and Shop Rite every Thursday. Man did she love a sale. Any off brand item or random purchase was easily explained, “It was on sale”. She dutifully tried to help keep Macy’s and Kohl’s stockholders happy. Mom kept a beautiful home and her love of decorating (and redecorating) was evident the minute you stepped in her door.
Mom always ensured “the boys” education was up to par. She routinely finished dioramas and book reports for her little procrastinators (she probably really did more of them than we did). Mom was feisty. The boys and their friends (who she treated as her own) can testify, she had no problem letting you know when she wasn’t happy despite all of them towering over her by the time they were 12. She wholeheartedly supported her kids with their interests; countless Star Wars and GI Joe action figures, an inordinate number of Hot Wheels and almost every game system known to man. Every charity that ever wrote to her received her support. She didn’t talk about it. We only know now because she still used checks and actual check registers.
She was as beautiful a woman on the inside as she was on the outside with a smile and laugh that brightened any room. Mom never left the house without her eyebrows and hair done just so and she was known for her lovely long nails. People would ask what salon she used to her great pride since she always did them herself.
In early Feb 2021 Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Mercifully it was fully removed with no need for chemo treatments. Sadly, she remained in the hospital for the rest of her life. Despite numerous complications that arose after her surgery, she continued to fight every day. Mom made a genuinely positive impression on everyone she met during her hospital stay. One of her procedure reports even included “Ruth Henke is a very nice woman” at the top. In a horrible situation, we were very lucky in that we were able to be holding her hands when Mom left us. Now finally after 17 years, Ruthie and Johnnie are together again and they’re dancing and singing along terribly to Abba and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
Ruth is survived by her son Peter, daughter-in-law Amanda and cherished granddaughter Eva of Canton, GA and Michael of Waldwick, NJ and all of her beloved family and dear, close friends. We invite you to join us in celebrating Ruth/Ruthie/Mom (or even Lela (Lay-lah) as her granddaughter and her friends called her).
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Ruth’s name to the American Cancer Society
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ruth Henke, please visit our floral store.