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1942 Ruth H. Ottesen 2023

Ruth H. Ottesen

October 22, 1942 — December 2, 2023



We are celebrating the life of Ruth Hieronymus Ottesen, a loving mother and grandmother and a passionate gardener and educator. Ruth was born in Carbondale, Illinois, the oldest of 5 children of Al and Wifreda Hieronymus. She died on December 3rd, 2023 after a long, full life and a short battle with cancer.


Ruth grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, where she developed a lifelong love of gardening and education. After graduating from University High School, Ruth attended the University of Iowa. There she met her future husband James Ottesen, who she married on July 24, 1965.  After graduating in 1965, Ruth taught fifth grade in Coralville, Iowa until moving to Davenport in 1968.


Ruth channeled her love of education into building a large and accomplished family. She raised educators, scientists, builders, and musicians, and taught all of them the value of a lifetime of learning and of sharing what you have learned. She raised her children to know no limits, to pursue their own dreams, and to never do anything halfway. Yet she also taught empathy, kindness, and a rock solid commitment to raising others up with you along the way. These principles created a lively and loving home that was always open to those in need, up to and including the incredible series of injured and abandoned baby animals her children brought to her over the years, including bunnies, ducklings, a squirrel, a raccoon, a crow, a cardinal, and a one-eyed mourning dove.


Ruth loved art and nature. She designed and created a stunning home garden that has been featured in many garden tours over the years and hosted the weddings of three of her children. She was a lifetime member of the Master Gardeners, and through them became heavily involved in educational programs for children. She helped to run the children’s gardening community programs at Friendly House for many years, teaching a whole new generation of children about plants, vegetables, and flower gardening. She was also a highly active member of the Friends of Vander Veer, serving on their board and as chair of their annual plant sale, to spread her love of the beauty of the natural world to the wider community. Active memberships also included the Mississippi Valley Hosta Society, the Tri City Garden Club and Chapter LH, PEO.


Ruth has touched many lives over the years. We will all remember her for her endless creativity and passion for both learning and teaching, her unflinching honesty paired with a deep seated kindness and empathy, her unflagging determination and her bedrock certainty that an assist is every bit as valuable as a goal. In that spirit, her legacy lives on in her children, her grandchildren, and in the community programs she has invested her time and considerable energy into over the years.


A gathering of family and friends will be held from 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Monday, January 15, 2024 in the Conservatory at Vander Veer Botanical Park, 215 W. Central Park Avenue in Davenport.  Contributions in her memory may be made to the Friends of Vander Veer Botanical Park.

            Those left to honor her memory include her husband, Jim; her daughters, Michele (Matt) Ottesen of Davenport, Dr. Jennifer (Michael) Ottesen of Worthington, Ohio, Dr. Elizabeth (Ben) Ottesen of Athens, Georgia and Kate (Joseph) Henderkott of Westfield, Indiana; her sons, Mark (Julie) Ottesen of Groton, Massachusetts, Douglas (Julie Ann) Ottesen of Davenport, Bradley (Denise) Ottesen of Logan, Utah and Dr. Eric (Robert) Ottesen of Ames, Iowa; eleven grandchildren; her sistes, Sally (Bob) Hall of Iowa City, Iowa and Peggy (Jim) Nunnelly of Iowa City; her brother, John (Beth) Hieronymus of Iowa City; and her sister-in-law, Antonia Hieronymus of Wayland, Massachusetts.


Ruth was preceded in death by her brother, Bill Hieronymus; and by her parents.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ruth H. Ottesen, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Gathering

Monday, January 15, 2024

4:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

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