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Ada Ruth Coburn of Overland Park, KS died March 31, 2014, at her home. Born in Paola, KS on February 22, 1923, she was the daughter of Louis and Lydia Prothe Schultz. Graduating from Paola High School in 1941, she was active in social clubs and music. Her senior picture sported the phrase “Merry as the day is long” and she lived up to this moniker throughout her long life. For two years she traveled by bicycle to her law clerk job with local attorney Oliver Rinehart in Paola. In 1943, she married C.M. “Bill” Coburn, Jr. They met on a blind date set up by friends who believed the couple’s fun-loving natures and great dancing skills would make them a perfect match. After having her second child, she worked as the Administrative Assistant for eight years at the U.S. Soil Conservation Service in Miami County, KS. She was active in First Lutheran Church in Paola, particularly as a member of the church choir. Her rich contralto voice provided solace and comfort to many as she was called to serve as a soloist for many church celebrations and funerals. Ada Ruth and Bill lived in Paola raising two daughters until the family moved to Overland Park, KS in 1964.
After moving, she began a new phase of her life exploring and testing new opportunities. As was typical at the time, job opportunities for women were stereotyped and limited – she lived the reality of the TV drama, “Mad Men,” which was the world of Corporate America in the 1960s. Starting in the “steno pool,” she began working at Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company in Kansas City, MO. Her intellect, perseverance, hard work, and personal skills catapulted her to what was then one of the highest jobs possible for women. She became an Executive Secretary to the Vice President. She held this position for almost twenty years, reluctantly taking early retirement when the company was bought out in a merger and moved to Houston, TX. Her strong desire for education and to succeed was passed on to her daughters and granddaughter, all who attained graduate degrees, becoming an ordained minister, a college professor, and an attorney, respectively. She and Bill continued to enjoy a life of dancing, travel, and entertaining. After his death in 2007, her friends continued to fill her world with cards, golf, laughter, and many nights at the theatre. She was a regular at Avila University events.
Ada Ruth is survived by daughter Reverend Elaine Coburn Watskey, a retired Lutheran minister living in Phoenix, AZ and daughter Dr. Carol K. Coburn, professor at Avila University, Kansas City, MO. She is also survived by her son-in-law, Dr. Joseph W. Watskey, granddaughter Jill Watskey, an attorney in Oklahoma City, and two great grandchildren, Benjamin and Emily.
A memorial service is scheduled for May 22, at 2 pm at Brookdale Place, 6101 W. 119th St. Overland Park, KS. Private burial will follow at a later date. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that memorial donations be sent to the Avila University Performing Arts Center, c/o of Dr. Charlene Gould 11901 Wornall Rd. Kansas City, MO 64145.
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