Longtime Laurel resident, Ruth Rector Fettkether, dies at nearly 100 years old

If you are paying attention, life does indeed come full circle at times — even when we are not aware that it has.

Forty-five years or so has passed since I'd first encountered "Miss Rector," at what was then Citizens National Bank on Main Street. Our first meeting was strictly by happenstance. Gathering my earnings from a paper route, at the wise age of 11 (or so I thought), I'd wandered in to open a savings account.

Miss Rector was all business. She explained the procedure, set up the account, took my hard earned money and handed me a passbook. She finished our transaction by encouraging me "to put away a little of what you earn every payday."

In a year or so I'd landed a job working for Jack Dougherty at his Old Town pharmacy, and trips to the nearby bank became routine most business days.

Miss Rector, who spent her entire career working at Citizens National Bank, always greeted me with a "Hello, Mr. Dudley." When I'd visit the bank for myself, she would politely ask, "Did you put anything in your savings account this week?" Most of the time, I could answer with a hearty, "Yes I did," but on occasion, I had to look her in the eye and say, "No, ma'am." She admonished me — politely of course — to "try and do so next week."

Fast forward those 45 years.

As I was sitting in a local restaurant, having an early dinner, two women strolled in. I'm sure I stared too long, but the elder of the duo certainly looked like Miss Rector. A quick, silent calculation led me to estimate that if, in fact, it was her, she would be nearly a hundred years old.

When the opportunity presented itself, I said to her dinner companion, a friend I now know as Robin, "The lady you're dining with looks like a woman who worked at Citizens National Bank, Ruth Rector." Her simple reply was, "That is Ruth Rector." I was dumbfounded.

Over the last couple of years, Robin has kept me updated on the friend I made long ago. It was a sad day when she called to tell me Miss Rector had passed away.

Ruth Rector Fettkether (nee Gilgen), an Iowa native, and Laurel resident since 1935, died on Feb. 22, 2013. She was, in fact, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

For a woman whose soft voice and tender manner put all whom she encountered at ease, her passing, much like her extraordinary life, was quiet and dignified.

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