Ruth Elizabeth (Watkins) McKinney, 80, of Chanute, formerly of Erie, died at 12:23 a.m., Thursday, October 25, 2012, at her home.
She was born January 29, 1932, in Cherryvale, Kansas, to Charles Henry and Minnie Esther (Farris) Watkins. Her father was a railroad man so the family moved several times before she started school. As a young girl, she lived in a boxcar on the railroad tracks in Moorhead, Kansas, so the family could be together. At the age of four, Ruth started first grade in Brazilton in a one-room schoolhouse with all eight grades that is now a museum. She attended 4th thru 7th grade in Coyville, Royster Jr. High in Chanute, and in the 8th grade moved to Erie where she later attended and graduated from high school. While in high school, she was a twirler in the Erie drum corps and marched in the American Royal Parade in Kansas City. After high school, she was employed by the Neosho County Courthouse for Pennington abstract office.
She and Ronald Dean “Jack” McKinney married and later divorced. He preceded her in death in 1975.
She had several jobs during her lifetime including working at Hyde’s flower shop and Adventure Line Manufacturing Company, both in Parsons; Richey Rexall Drug Store in Erie and enjoyed babysitting with several children. When her parents started Good Will Tours, Inc. she was secretary-treasurer and escorted tours until she retired in 2000.
In 1991, she married Jackson Henry “Jack” Tandy of Kansas City. He preceded her in death on May 22, 2001.
At the age of nine, Ruth became a member of the First Christian Church in Erie and was baptized in the river outside of Coyville. She was a member of the Lucky 13 4-H club as her mother organized this club when they moved to Erie. She not only learned to sew and cook, she also raised sheep and had a cornfield that she planted and took care of. She was a member of the Erie Chapter No. 136 Order of the Eastern Star receiving her 60-year pin. She was also a member of the Southeast Kansas Bottle and Relic Club and won Best of Show and Peoples Choice in 1998. She was instrumental in organizing Mainstreet Memories and was Master of Ceremonies at the Erie Christmas Parade. Ruth was a lifetime member of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chanute. She served as den mother for her son’s Cub Scouts and remembered well when all four of her children volunteered her to be room mother for their respective class in the same year.
1984 was the year she bought a farm inside the city limits of Erie and had all the buildings torn down and built a beautiful brick motel calling it The Land of Ah’s Motor Inn. After residing in it and managing it for seven years, she then hired others following her marriage so she and her husband could travel. Twenty-five years later, the motel was sold.
In 1991, she asked some of her friends if they would help start a museum in Erie and they made it happen. For the first 19 years, she was president and was very proud of the community for helping with donations of items and money.
Good Will Tours belonged to an association called NTA, National Tour Assn., and after attending for several years, she was voted onto the Board of Directors in 1982 and kept climbing up the ladder to become the President of the National Tour Foundation and also served as Convention Chairman in Boston, MA. In 1999, she was inducted into the National Tour Foundation hall of Fame. After retirement, she was awarded the Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award. A scholarship was established in her name along with her very dear friend, Rene’ Campbell, that awards a $1,000 scholarship every year to a college boy or girl that is going into tourism business.
Since 1999, Ruth served as a trustee of the Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center and had also volunteered in the gift shop at the hospital.
She loved working in her flower gardens and tending to her yard. She especially enjoyed all of her e-mail friends. Through the years, she lived in Kansas City, Bartlesville, Erie and Chanute. Most of those years were spent in Erie and since 2007 she had lived in Chanute.
Survivors include three sons, Richard Dean McKinney and his wife, Gayle, of Erie, KS; Robert Dale McKinney and his wife, Lori, of Chanute, KS; Charles Earl McKinney and his wife, Kathi, of Erie, KS; one daughter, Wendy Dawn Barnhart and her husband, Ervin, of Chanute, KS; grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Josh and Kim McKinney, Lauryn and Allyson, Kansas City; Jody and Hillary McKinney, and Colby of Erie; Scott and Erin McKinney, Ava, Hayes and Ella of Parsons; Melody and Shane Smith, of Raeford, NC; Jennifer and Jay Ewan, Logan, Mason and Mavrick Jaymes of Erie; Stephanie and Jason Wagner of Girard; Jordan McKinney of Erie; Tasha Blair, Nathaniel, Seth, Sammy and Ainsley, Oklahoma; TeeJay Barnhart, Jackson and Jaivon of Lawrence; Laci Barnhart and Aribella Sno of Kansas City; one brother, Ralph Watkins and his wife, Laura, of Erie; numerous nieces and nephews.
Following cremation, memorial services will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, October 29, 2012, at the First Christian Church in Erie under the direction of Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home in Parsons. The family will receive friends at 10:00 a.m., until service time at the church on Monday.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Mem-Erie Museum or the First Christian Church in Erie. These may be left at or mailed to Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, P.O. Box 374, Parsons, KS 67357.
Online condolences may be left at www.forbeshoffman.com