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Obituary for Ruth Pauline Hjelmeland Monson

Ruth Pauline Hjelmeland Monson


Ruth Pauline Hjelmeland Monson of La Crosse, Wisconsin passed away at her home on Wed., Feb. 20th surrounded by her family. She was born in Waukegan, Illinois, March 7, 1926, to Norwegian immigrant parents, Fredrik and Kristine (Kristiansen) Hjelmeland. Ruth’s mother arrived in America only one year earlier making her the first member of the family to be born in America. Ruth’s only sibling, Odny, was one year old when her mother arrived in America to join her husband in 1925. They emigrated from FØrde, Norway, a sister city of La Crosse.

After completing Waukegan High School in 1944, she continued her education and graduated in 1948 from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, a college founded by Norwegian immigrants. The following year she married John Monson at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waukegan, Illinois, where she had been confirmed earlier. She returned to St. Olaf College where she served as secretary to the Dean of Women while her husband completed his college degree following WWII.

The early years of their marriage were spent in West Salem, Wisconsin where her husband served in the West Salem School District, followed by two years in Platteville, Wisconsin, before moving, in 1966, to Tripoli, Libya, North Africa, with their three children, Kristine, Martha, and Tom. There she worked as a secretary at the Oil Companies School, a school for children whose expatriate parents worked in the oil industry. In 1970 they returned to the United States to Whitehall, Wisconsin. She taught for five years at Taylor High School in Taylor, Wisconsin. In 1975, they returned to Tripoli, Libya where they worked and lived until 1982, when all U.S. citizens were ordered out of Libya by the American government. The following year they moved to Stavanger, Norway, where Ruth taught at the Stavanger American School and John was the superintendent of the school . They spent six years in Norway before returning to the United States in 1990 to La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Retirement years were filled with the joys of their three children, Kristine (Paul) Wilkie, of Eagan, Minn., Martha Monson (George) Lowe of Decorah, Iowa, Tom (Ann) of La Crosse, and seven grandchildren; Jordan Wilkie in Osan, South Korea, Leah Wilkie (Ross) Rikkers in Madison, Wis., Aaron and Abbey Lowe in Decorah, Iowa, Michelle Monson and Laura Monson (Tony) Vanden Heuvel in Edina, Minn., and adopted grandson Ahmed Alkhalili from Ramallah, Palestine. She was an aunt and mother to her sister’s children, Aleta, Fred, Kristine, Mark, and Petrina following the death of their mother 29 years earlier. Ruth loved entertaining and serving numerous area friends and those from around the world. It brought her great joy to embrace people from all cultures, to view the world from their many perspectives. They gave her courage to be a voice for the voiceless. Her faith and church were very important to her. She was an active member of English Lutheran Church in La Crosse, The Prayer Vigil for Peace with Justice in the Middle East, and the La Crosse ELCA Synod Middle East Subcommittee. Ruth played a very important part in several Bethlehem Events at English Lutheran where she organized, displayed, and conducted a museum from her collection of artifacts from the Holy Land and the Middle East. Ruth also presented a four week series last spring entitled Steadfast Hope at English Lutheran which culminated a lifetime of working for human rights. She and her husband traveled frequently to Norway, the Middle East and North Africa. Ruth had a strong and genuine passion for the freedom of occupied peoples of Palestine and engaged in numerous efforts to that end. She was always a strong advocate for peace with justice in Israel/Palestine. Ruth was also very proud of her Norwegian heritage, compiled numerous family histories as a legacy to her family and was actively involved in Ygdrasil, a Norwegian study organization formed to preserve Scandinavian American heritage. It was an honor for her as well to be a member of the International Women’s Group at UW La Crosse, where stories from every corner of the world brought people closer together.

Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, sister Odny (Fred) Reckling, and brother-in-law Gordon Monson. She is survived by husband, John, her three children, their spouses and their children, a sister-in-law, Amy Monson; nieces, nephews, and many from the Hjelmeland and Kristiansen families in Norway. Both visitation and memorial service for Ruth will be celebrated at English Lutheran Church, 16th and King St. in La Crosse, with Pastors Mark Solyst and Melinda Pupillo officiating. Visitation will be held Sunday, Feb. 24, 4-6 p.m. in the new Fellowship Hall. The  memorial service will be held Monday, Feb. 25, at 11:00 a.m. with visitation one hour prior. Burial will be at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery in Pigeon Falls, Wisconsin, at a later date.

Ruth’s family wishes to thank Dr. J. Novotny and oncology staff at Mayo Health Care, Dr. Alcee Jumonville and oncology nursing staff at Gundersen Lutheran, Gundersen Lutheran’s Hospice Staff, and Sister Deb Schwab from Integrative Therapies, for their compassionate care. A memorial in Ruth’s name can be given to 1) Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center-Jerusalem, or 2) Americans for Middle East Understanding-New York. They are both Palestinian Christian organizations that Ruth worked closely with over the years to promote peace with justice.

The family is being assisted by Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes and Crematory in La Crosse. Online condolences may be shared at