LIMA — Ruth Frances Elliott was born in Allen County in 1896, lived in Allen County her entire life and died in Allen County in 1987. To generations of Lima pupils she was Miss Elliott, an elementary school teacher.
But for all her deep Allen County roots — the family settled in Bath Township in the early 19th century — Elliott really got around, particularly after her retirement in 1957. She was, as The Lima News described her in an Aug. 9, 1970, story, “that inveterate, intrepid traveler Ruth Elliott.”
The intrepid traveler was born Aug. 22, 1896, the daughter of Edward Jasper Elliott and Mary Frances Ritenour Elliott, who married in November 1892. Her grandfather, James B. Elliott, was born in Bath Township in 1827, four years before Allen County was organized.
Her father began working as a tinsmith at the age of 14 and, beginning in 1896, operated Elliott Sheet Metal Co., which was housed in a wood-frame building at 127 W. Wayne St. The building, constructed in the mid-19th century, had been moved on rollers to the Wayne Street location. It was demolished in the summer of 1974.
The Elliott family was living at the West Wayne Street address in March 1912 when the Lima Daily News announced the “Busy Bee class of Central Church of Christ will hold their class meeting at the home of Miss Ruth Elliott …” The Busy Bee class was one of the first of many clubs and organizations Elliott would join over her long life. Whenever the Daughters of Union Veterans, YWCA, League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Business Girls Class of Central Christian Church or numerous other organizations met over the next seven decades, Elliott was usually in attendance.
On Sept. 11, 1916, the Lima Times-Democrat reported, “Miss Ruth Elliott of Brice Avenue leaves Tuesday to take up the second year of work at the Normal (teaching) college of Miami University at Oxford, Ohio.” Elliott earned a teaching certificate from Miami.
On June 13 of the following year, the Daily News wrote, “Teachers for the school year 1917-18 were appointed at the regular meeting of the board of education …” Elliott was among them, and, in September was assigned to teach fourth grade at the Washington school, where she would remain for most of the next 40 years. The Washington school, which eventually became part of Washington-McKinley Elementary, stood on the southeast corner of Pine and Kibby streets. It was razed in the early 1950s. Elliott also taught at Whittier Elementary School for several years.
“I never quit going to school,” Elliott said in a March 18, 1973, story in The Lima News, “so before I actually received my bachelor of education degree in 1952 from Miami University, I earned credits from Bowling Green State University, University of Cincinnati and Ohio University, some of which was done by correspondence.”
Elliott the “intrepid traveler” emerged during her years as a teacher. “Misses Ruth Elliott and Ella Stinebaugh, who recently returned from a trip to Europe, will present ‘Travelogues of Europe’ at a dinner meeting of the Toujours Pret Club …,” The Lima News reported March 2, 1927.
Although she often left it, Elliott remained a staunch supporter of Lima. In 1949, the News asked its readers, “What don’t you like about Lima?” Elliott and her fourth-grade pupils at Washington school were quick to reply “telling us what they DO like about our city,” the newspaper reported Sept. 15, 1949. “The chief reason the children like Lima is because they live here and are proud of it,” Elliott wrote in an attached note.
On May 23, 1957, the News reported three longtime Lima teachers were retiring at the end of the school year. “Heading the list is Miss Ruth Elliott, 102 S. Primrose, who has been in the Lima school system for 40 years. She has been at Whittier School since the fall of 1954. She has taught the second, third and fourth grades, has made home calls on all her approximately 1,600 pupils as a Lima teacher — and has a list of every one she has taught.”
Elliott, however, was not done with education, becoming a frequent substitute at Allen County schools over the next dozen years. In a Jan. 28, 1968, story on substitute teachers in the News, the longtime elementary school teacher revealed why she preferred those pupils over the higher grades. “They’re not such smart alecks,” she said.
In the fall of 1957, the first fall in four decades that Elliott was not a full-time teacher, she ran for the Lima school board, losing out in a four-way fight for two seats. She reported campaign expenses of $53.21.
But mostly Elliott used her new free time to travel. In June 1958, Elliott “gave highlights of her recent trip to the West Indies” at a meeting of the Christian Women’s Fellowship at Central Church of Christ. August 1958 found her on a 22-day tour of Mexico. September of that year found her speaking “on her mission tour of Jamaica” to the Christian Women’s Fellowship.
Elliott was just getting started. On Nov. 13, 1960, the News trumpeted its “recent Lima News Hawaiian Tour was acclaimed a big success by Miss Ruth Elliott, one of 19 persons taking the trip.” August 1961 found Elliott back from a 40-day tour of South America with a group from the National Education Association.
Just home from a trip to Alaska and the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, Elliott discovered a tour of Europe sponsored by the League of Women Voters had become available. “Before I began unpacking from the last trip,” Elliott told the News on Nov. 8, 1962, “it was nearly time to start planning the next.”
July 1963 found Elliott touring Europe and North Africa, while 1964 included tours of the Holy Land, the South Sea Islands, Australia and New Zealand. On Aug. 6, 1965, the Lima News wrote: “Friends of Ruth Elliott, 102 S. Primrose, knew she wouldn’t stay still long and she didn’t. Ruth just returned from another 15,000 mile, 32-day tour of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Scotland and England.”
Elliott’s world tour continued through the 1960s and early ‘70s. Wherever she traveled, she collected dolls — adding nine to her collection during an August 1970 trip to the Iberian Peninsula — with the total eventually reaching about 200. And, whenever she returned, Elliott would speak to local clubs and organizations, showing slides and displaying her dolls.
Illness slowed Elliott in 1973. Following a colostomy, she told the News in a March 18, 1973, story that “over the past 15 years, she has been to Europe nine times, walked the streets of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) and Moscow …” She also said she had visited “all the states, Canada, all of Europe except the Balkans, most of South America, Russia, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Israel, Greece, etc.”
Elliott died in September 1987 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. She was posthumously honored by the “Teachers Touch Lives” program of the Lima Education Association.