Ruth A. Harkert

TRAVERSE CITY — With her family gathered around her, Ruth Annette Harkert, 87, of Traverse City and formerly of Evart, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Munson Medical Center.

Born on Sept. 13, 1926, in Clio, she was the fourth of eight children born to Jessie Imogene (Fleming) and Earl Isaac Gillett. The family moved back to their ancestral roots in Evart shortly after her birth. She attended Evart Public Schools and graduated from Evart High School in 1944. She continued her education at Central Michigan College in Mount Pleasant, living there with her uncle, Art, and aunt, Mae Fleming.

Ruth's great-grandparents, the Rev. Erastus and Anna Fleming, were pioneers in Evart, moving there in 1871. Rev. Fleming was the first pastor of the newly organized Evart Methodist Church. Her grandparents, Will and May Fleming, owned and operated Fleming Dairy. Ruth fondly told of the wonderful times spent at the farm and especially helping Grandpa Fleming deliver milk door to door in the milk wagon pulled by horses. The dairy was later sold to her sister, Dorothy, and her husband, Ted Witbeck, at which time it was known as Ted's Dairy, based out of Reed City.

Ruth began her working career as a secretary at the Registrar of Deeds office in Reed City prior to her marriage. It was there that she became friends with Lillian Hoffmeyer, introducing Lil to her brother, Bill Gillett. Bill was serving in the U. S. Army Air Corps while he and Lillian were dating (they eventually married) and on one of his leaves from the service, Bill brought home with him his best friend Leo Harkert, of Davenport, Iowa. The rest is history as they say, and Ruth and Leo married on Jan. 21, 1950, in Evart and shared 58 years together before Leo's death on Jan. 21, 2008.

After her children were in school, Ruth began working for Evart Public Schools, first in the high school library as an assistant for a couple of years, and then for many years in the position of secretary to elementary principal Dwight Cooper, a position she held until her retirement in 1988.

The fourth generation of her family to be a member of the Evart United Methodist Church, she and Leo were very active members there. She had been a member of the United Methodist Women and directed the choir for many years, as well as serving in many other projects and capacities. She was a voracious reader, enjoyed watching westerns with Leo, traveled and camped in their trailer as well as spending many hours doing embroidery work, winning blue ribbons for many years at the Osceola County Fair. They lived on Hemlock Street in Evart for many years, and then moved to their home on Lake Miramichi, which they so enjoyed. They sold the lake house and moved to their home on South Main Street in Evart before moving to Traverse City in 2004 to be near their family.

Ruth is survived by her children, Rick and his wife Jody Harkert and Linda Puckett, all of Traverse City; her grandchildren, Nicholas (Lindsay) Harkert, of Traverse City, Kendry Harkert (Matt Scott), of Interlochen, Tyler Harkert, of Kentwood, Tina (Chet) Neihardt, of Sarasota, Fla., Matthew (Leslie) Puckett, of Portage, Renee Puckett, of Muskegon; and her great-grandchildren, Christopher, Kyle, Noah and Emmarae. Also surviving are her siblings, Joan (Max) Bowman, of Plant City, Fla., Jim (Lilah) Gillett, of Overland Park, Kan., David (Pat) Gillett, of Greenville and Louise (David) Lantz, of Lansing and Elk Rapids. Many nieces and nephews survive, including her "special" niece, Tammy Lantz, of Traverse City, who has been so very involved in her life and care; her very special friend and "adopted granddaughter," Theresa Marsh, of Kingsley; her good friend, Harriett Bieri, of Evart; as well as her many other Evart friends. Also surviving is her sister-in-law, Tootie Buri, of Davenport, Iowa.

Ruth was preceded in death by her parents; her husband; her son-in-law, Ray Puckett; her siblings, Dorothy (Ted) Witbeck, Helen (Phil) Swanson and Bill (Lillian) Gillett; her great-grandson, Eadon; nephew, Jerry Bowman; and nieces, Judy Swanson and Denise Ludwig.

Visitation for Ruth will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home in Traverse City. Visitation will also take place at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 at the Evart United Methodist Church, with the funeral service following at 1:30 p.m. Pastor Melodye Surgeon-Rider is officiating.

Burial will be in Forest Hill Cemetery in Evart. To affirm Ruth's love for the color purple, we would ask that you wear some sort of purple to her visitation or service.

Memorial contributions in Ruth's name may be directed to the Evart United Methodist Church, P. O. Box 425, Evart, MI 49631.

Please share your favorite memories and stories of Ruth with her family by way of her online tribute page at

The family is being served by Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home of Traverse City and Corey Funeral Home in Evart.