Ruth “Ruthie” Emily Thompson Fonseca obit

Ruth “Ruthie” Emily Thompson Fonseca was born April 20, 1928, in Deposit, New York, and she passed away on Jan. 16, 2021. The daughter and granddaughter of Methodist preachers, she remembered growing up without much but watching her parents always share when someone knocked on their door in need of food. She often fondly remembered her father’s love and affinity for desserts and her mother’s expert housekeeping.  

Ruthie attended Barrington College, where she met her husband Don. They married on June 14, 1952. In February, 1957, both felt called by the Lord to serve as missionaries in southern Sudan. They boarded the USS United States ocean liner, with their eight-week-old daughter Cynthia, and made the long trip across the Atlantic and then by plane to the southern Sudan. At first they lived in a mud hut with no plumbing or electricity and a two-day drive to the nearest doctor.  

Don began his work as a linguist putting the unwritten Madi language into written form so teachers could be brought in. The next year Ruthie gave birth to Sandra at a mission station in the Congo, in a hospital for people with leprosy. Five years later she gave birth to another daughter, Diane, at a mission station in Uganda. 

They witnessed and survived two wars in Africa, a civil war in the Sudan and a Revolution in the Congo, both of which moved them towards their second missionary career as dorm parents and teachers at the Rift Valley Academy, where Ruth was known for hosting and cooking for 50 students in her home twice each weekend. After Don and Ruth left Africa, they spent their next 22 years at The Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York, where Ruth taught preschool, worked in the school’s library, ate a coffee yogurt each afternoon, and perfected her blueberry pies. She often had her grandchildren over, making them delicious snacks like bunny bread or fruit salad, and she took some of her grandchildren to the bank when they reached elementary school so that they could open their own bank accounts. Although Ruth never wanted to learn how to drive, she loved taking the train into the city and exploring museums by herself.  

When Don and Ruth retired, they moved to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and were regulars at The Coffee House. Ruth loved visiting the Farmer’s Market, and she always bought a variety of apples for her apple-loving granddaughter in college nearby, packing them in a paper bag with a Mason jar full of her homemade biscotti each week. Don and Ruth moved to Franklin, Tennessee in 2008. They loved living in Franklin and regularly frequented Merridees, getting to know many of the staff and fellow customers. Ruth made friends anywhere she went, winning people over by listening to their stories. She made people feel known and loved, and she was loved by them. She truly fell in love with every group of people in every country and county that she lived. One of her life sayings was “You just need to pray to love others.”  

Ruth leaves a legacy of faith as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren have witnessed her reading her Bible in One Year (she had just completed her 23rd year of reading the full Bible each year) and telling them that she prayed for them each by name every single day. Ruthie was a brave and courageous woman of faith, in love with her Donald for nearly 70 years, a loving and giving mother, a spiritual mentor, and a best friend to many. Her affirmation and encouragement will be missed by all who knew her, but her influence will last forever.  

She is survived by her husband, Donald Fonseca, daughters Cindy Masters (Curtis), Sandy Duncan (Michael), and Diane Brandt (David), seven (twelve, including their spouses) grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. 

An online guestbook is available at  615-377-0775 

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