Ruth Blackburn went to meet her Lord on January 15, 2019 after a long, happy life of 107 years.
Ruth Afton McKinney Blackburn was born in Creal Springs Illinois to Rev. and Mrs. J.W. McKinney on August 9, 1911. She was the sixth child and only daughter, having as brothers Harvey Leigh, Robert Edwin, Wendell Hubert, and two stillborn infants.
Rev. McKinney moved his family to Marion in 1915 where he was elected Superintendent of Schools for Williamson County and founded the Warder Street Baptist Church, which Ruth joined at age nine. Ruth attended Lincoln Elementary School and graduated from Marion Township High School in 1929. She knew at an early age that she wanted to be a teacher. After teaching briefly at a rural school, she began at S.I. Normal University at Carbondale. The depression soon made continuing her education financially impossible.
Ruth was employed by Central Illinois Public Service Co., where she met her future husband, James G. Blackburn, a surveyor for C.I.P.S. On May 30, 1935 they eloped to Owensboro, KY, keeping their marriage a secret for nearly a year, so that Ruth would not lose her job.
On August 28, 1936 their first child, Judith Ann, was born, followed by Thomas Nelson on June 3, 1940. By then the family had moved to Zeigler, Illinois where James was employed as an electrician by Bell and Zoller Coal Co. On February 23, 1943, daughter Winifred Carole was born. In Zeigler, Ruth attended the Zeigler Christian Church where she was church treasurer as well as the pianist. She was very active in the Zeigler Women’s Club and achieved the position of Worthy Matron for Eastern Star.
The family moved to Marion in 1950 and Ruth continued her education, getting her B.A. from S.I.U. in 1956 and M.A. in 1963. The family united with Warder Street Baptist Church where Ruth was organist for over 40 years.
Ruth enjoyed teaching 4th grade at every elementary school in the Marion district, with the last decade of teaching spent at Logan Elementary. Many former students report that “Mrs. Blackburn was my favorite teacher.” She retired June 1976.
Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, husband Jim, son Thomas, son-in-law Del and grandson-in-law Roger. She is survived by daughters Judy Van Zile of Marion, Carole Sniderwin (Mike) of Houston TX; 8 grandchildren, Cindy Burroughs, Wendy Hawthorne (Paul), Deborah Land (Rick), Laura Taylor (James), Gordon Snoddy (Debbie), Scott Sniderwin, Brett Sniderwin (Katie), Kristen Crady (James); 19 great grandchildren, Susan Harbison (Justin), Amanda Naas (Dwayne), Lauren Toledo (Daniel), Jon Hawthorne (Ashley), Philip Hawthorne (Rachel), Abigael Hawthorne, Misty Shock (Rob), Christopher Land (Miranda), Jennifer Alfia, James Taylor (Liane), Mack Taylor (Brooke), Laire “Sam” Taylor, Arden Sniderwin, Ella Sniderwin, Bryce Sniderwin, Connor Sniderwin, Evan Sniderwin, Roland Crady, Morgan Crady; and 8 great-great grandchildren, Cameron Shock, Tehya Payne, Kash Parsons, Lexia Land, Lawson Land, Etan Alfia, Laila Alfia, and Owen Taylor.
Ruth loved her family and her two kitties. She enjoyed music, the St. Louis Cardinals, and was an avid Scrabble player. She was devoted to her church and the Marion Women’s Club.
Funeral services will be Sunday, January 20th at 2:00 pm at Mitchell-Hughes Funeral Home with Rev. Dwayne Sheumaker officiating. Burial will follow at Freedom Cemetery. Visitation will be Sunday from 1 pm until the time of service at the funeral home. To honor Ruth’s strong faith in Jesus Christ, she asks in lieu of flowers please make memorial donations to the Lighthouse Shelter in Marion.