Ruth Evangeline Motley

Ruth Evangeline Gustafson Motley, 88, Longtime Resident of Evergreen Community Nursing Home, Olathe, KS, passed from the pain and trials of this life, Sunday, May 1st, 2016.  Now she has a completely healed body and is singing with the heavenly choirs, no longer bound by earth’s constraints.

She was born November 22, 1927, the second child of six, to the late Rev. Emory Charles and Lydia Elizabeth (Swenson) Gustafson, in the area of Deerwood, Minnesota.  She was strongly affected by the Great Depression, which taught her to appreciate all she had, not only possessions, but also the people who entered her life.  She loved all who she encountered and freely dispensed hugs.

Her mother was an organist, pianist and loved to sing, and she passed this love to Ruth and her siblings.  In high school Ruth learned to play the French horn, which she was proud of, because of its difficulty in mastering.  After graduation she attended both Northwestern College (now Northwestern University) and Bethel College (now Bethel University) in the Twin Cities of MN, pursing a degree in music education and voice.  While she attended Northwestern, Billy Graham was its’ president, which gave her the opportunity to sing in the choir at Park Covenant Church, and also to hear George Beverly Shea sing solos regularly. When she transferred to Bethel College, she met her husband-to-be, Morris Motley, on an evangelistic team which went out Sundays to small area churches that were without a pastor, and Morris led the singing in his strong voice and Ruth played the piano.  This led to their marriage in June 12, 1954 at Park Covenant.  They were able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in 2014.

After Morris graduated in May1956 from Bethel College, he began attending Bethel Seminary to fulfill God’s call to him to become a minister. In October of that year, they welcomed their first daughter, Janelle, and in May of 1958, their second daughter, Loree, arrived.  During this time, she worked outside the home to support the family and Morris drove school bus for handicapped children.  After Morris graduated from seminary in May 1960, they moved to their first church in Iron River, Wisconsin, which they pastored along with a very small church in Port Wing, Wisconsin, and Ruth began her life as a minister’s wife. This included playing the piano for each service and coordinating and supplying special music in all the churches they served.  Soon after their arrival, in September of 1960, son Sheldon was born.  Then in 1963 they adopted their second son, Richard, who was 1 year at the time.  Their third son, Gregory, was adopted in 1967 at age 5.

After leaving Wisconsin, they pastored churches in Arcadia, Nebraska; Hays, Kansas; Watertown and Lake Norden, South Dakota; and George, Iowa. After furthering Morris’s education in Broken Arrow, OK, they pastored their last church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which is where they retired, and where Ruth entered her first nursing home 14 ½ years ago, due to rapid onset Alzheimer’s.  Shortly after her diagnosis, Morris determined he wanted to be close to his daughters, who both resided in Olathe, KS, so he sold their home and moved Ruth to an area nursing home, after which she ended up at Evergreen Community nursing home 8 ½ years ago.  Thanks to medication that slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s, she was able to recognize her family and speak to us until God began taking her home the day before she died.

Ruth loved music her entire life and loved hearing each of her family members sing to her in the nursing home, which she would join in.  When traveling to church conferences and to visit family, hymnbooks were always in the car, and when her kids would start to get rambunctious in the car, she had them sing together instead. She taught both of her daughters to play the piano, and also to sing parts.  She encouraged all to play instruments, which we did, and to develop our solo voices too.  Ruth often accompanied herself singing soprano solos, as well as the rest of her family; she also played and sang with her husband and girls as they sang quartets and frequently played and sang trios with her daughters. These last years of her life, when she could no longer play the piano and sing, she loved going to the church services at Evergreen Community nursing home – both Protestant and Catholic, because of the music.

In the fall of 1964, when they were pastoring in Arcadia, Nebraska, the school music teacher had to quit teaching due to medical issues, so they quickly hired Ruth to teach music- which she did to all 12 grades in the school.  Janelle remembers this vividly, and was so proud of her mother who pulled off the most amazing Christmas concert, in which each grade sang, but most amazing was the high school students, which she had taught to sing in four parts in just a couple of months- and they were truly a blended choir.

She also loved sports, especially the Arkansas Razorbacks, while she lived in Arkansas, but this love continued in the nursing home.  She especially loved basketball, and if there was a local game on the TV, she would watch it in her room.  She grew to love watching KU – especially after both her daughters graduated from there.

Ruth is survived by her daughters Janelle (and Allen) Dyer of Kansas City, MO and Loree (and Dave) Smith of Olathe, KS; her son, Sheldon of Doylestown, PA, Richard of Luck, WI, and Gregory of Shawnee, KS. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Valorie Gerard, Melissa Gerard, and Jennifer Gerard (children of Janelle); Aaron Motley and Nicole Motley (children of Richard), and Anja-Kaarin Smith (daughter of Loree). Her great-grandchildren include Elijah Person, Arayah Person, Ciara Person (Valorie), Austin Spencer and Liam Colbert (Melissa), and Malachi Person and Dezmond Person (Jennifer).  Another great- grandson is due to arrive in June…Jaxon Eugene Colbert (Melissa). In addition, she is survived by her sister, Grace Sjordal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, one brother-in law, Howard Dinsmore, Slayton, Minnesota, one sister-in-law, Ellen Norlin, Rib Lake, Wisconsin, and one brother-in-law, Paul Motley (and Grace), St Paul, MN; and 28 nieces and nephews, as well as their spouses and offspring.

She was was preceded in death by her husband, Rev Morris Alvin Motley, her parents, Emory and Lydia Gustafson; infant brother, Howard; her older brother and his wife, Alford Gustafson (Jeannette) who were lifetime missionaries to Argentina; her younger sister and her husband, Delores O’Brien (Albert); her youngest sister, Caryll Dinsmore; her brother-in-law, James Sjordahl;  four brothers-in-law and their wives: Charles (and Edna) Motley, Loyd (and Leinad) Motley, Lewis Motley, George (and Joyce) Motley, brother-in-law Ray Norlin,  and one niece, Jan Motley (Loyd).

Ruth was a generous, loving daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and will be deeply missed by her entire family and many former parishioners and friends. Her greatest desire was that her family would love and serve the Lord, and that we would all be together in heaven.  We look forward to seeing her again – eternally praising God – in the heavenly choirs!



  1. Jacqueline Meile Brown on January 28, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    May God bless your whole family and may I be a blessing to Sheldon. Best wishes in the New Year 2019.

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