Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Ruth Kavanaugh

March 1, 1929 - September 27, 2022
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Visitation

Monday, October 3, 2022
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Prayer service and time of sharing beginning at 7 PM.

Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Tuesday, October 4, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
St. Monica Church
534 W Kilgore Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 345-4389

Visitation will begin at 10 AM.
The Rosary will be recited at 10:30 AM.
Burial immediately following mass at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
A luncheon will then be held in the Parish Community Building at St. Monica Church.



At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

St. Monica Church
4408 S Westnedge Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 345-4389
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


As her family and friends can surely attest, Ruth Kavanaugh truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength and encouragement for others, even in the most difficult of times, and nothing brought her greater joy than spending time with her loved ones. Deeply loved, Ruth will be forever missed by those who knew her best.

Although the year 1929 is often recalled as the year of the historic crash of the stock market, it was a year of great celebration in the lives of Henry and Katherine (Burns) Lamberty as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Ruth Elizabeth on March 1st in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Raised in Chicago, Illinois, Ruth was a typical young girl of her generation. She was raised in the family home alongside her sisters, Elizabeth and Marie. As the Great Depression was still in full swing, Ruth’s father worked multiple jobs as a carpenter and as a printer to provide for his family. He even hitchhiked from Michigan to Wisconsin through a blizzard in order to make it home in time for Ruth’s birth. Ruth learned the value of hard work from him. As a child, she had rheumatic fever, which led to an enlarged heart. However, Ruth always looked on the bright side and would go on to be known for her big heart and overflowing love.

All of Ruth’s education came through Catholic schools. She graduated in 1946 from the Academy of Our Lady, where she discovered a talent for acting. She took a lead role in a high school production of “Harriet,” a stage biography of the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe. Following her graduation, Ruth pursued further education at DePaul University and Loyola University. She then worked as a medical secretary for a time. Ruth was known for her impeccable organization skills, and she could also type very quickly and was talented at shorthand. Ruth enjoyed working in a downtown office building located at 30 N. Michigan Avenue, right across from Grant Park.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Ruth when she met the man who would soon become her husband. His name was John Kavanaugh. He was studying to become an OB/GYN at Loyola University and they met on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. John and Ruth both came from strong Catholic families. Their faith and belief in public service forged a bond between them. They were married in Ruth’s home parish of St. Killian’s Church on May 30, 1953.

All who knew Ruth can surely agree that she treasured her family above all else. She and John were overjoyed to welcome their four beloved children, Mary, John, Kathy, and Kevin, into their hearts and home. Ruth thrived in her role as mother and tirelessly worked to care for her children. Following the untimely death of her husband in 1977, Ruth, who was only 48, was left to provide for their four college and high school age children. She re-entered the workforce, rushing to her first job interview at Western Michigan University in a simple house dress, determined that she and her children would still have a beautiful future. Ruth worked in a variety of roles there, primarily for well-established staff, and she also worked hard to care for her home and children. Later in life, Ruth was thrilled to become an aunt, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.

Ruth also had a genuine passion for writing, especially on spiritual subjects. She wrote homilies for the Diocese of Lansing. She also prepared the annual “Liturgical Calendar of the United States of America” for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy. Throughout her entire life, she wrote and presented papers on “The Mystery of the Word Incarnate,” a topic she was truly invested in. From a young age, Ruth was very dedicated to her faith. She entered the convent in the eighth grade, but was told that she had a vocation as a mother and a caretaker for her parents. As a young office worker, Ruth would often use her lunch break to visit the church to pray and “say hello to Jesus.” After work, she would often visit a nearby Catholic orphanage and help put the children to bed before heading home for a very late dinner!

Once settled in Kalamazoo, she became an active member at St. Monica Church. She made many contributions to the parish, including establishing the Mater Dei Praesidium – a local chapter of the Legion of Mary; maintaining the First Saturday Mass for Peace, as Mary requested at Fatima; developing a program to prepare mentally challenged children to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion; and opening the first church library. She and her husband also developed the Family Life Institute, which provided natural family planning guidance for married couples. This led to meeting with Mother Teresa so a similar program could be taught by her Sisters of Charity. Ruth’s selfless service exemplified what it means to be the hands and feet of the Lord she loved. After John’s death, Mother Teresa invited Ruth to visit her and the Sisters of Charity at their convent in Harlem. There she found the quiet and rest she needed to grieve the death of her husband.

In the 1970s Ruth began seeking out cottages along the South Haven lakeshore to vacation to. The family would then take two-week trips to a cottage each summer. Ruth enjoyed bonfires on the beach, popcorn, and root beer floats, and she made sure to have a fresh batch of her infamous Nestle Tollhouse cookies for any guests. For nearly 30 consecutive summers Ruth rented a small cottage on the South Haven shore of Lake Michigan. Nicknamed the “The Kavanaugh Compound,” it became a place where Ruth’s family could enjoy long walks, long talks, sunsets and bonfires, and where Ruth could watch her grandchildren grow from toddlers into adulthood and form lifelong bonds. As her family grew larger, so did the cottages she rented.

Ruth was an avid reader of spiritual and theological works and was known to sit on the beach reading, taking notes and outlining passages as she went. She loved reading so much that she never watched TV, with the single exception of joining the world in watching the first Moon Landing on July 16, 1969. When reflecting on the life of Ruth Kavanaugh, it is easy to see her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She was well known for her solid work ethic and for the unshakeable faith that was the foundation of her life. Though she will be dearly missed, Ruth leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps. Through life’s many challenges, let us all remember Ruth’s words of guidance and support, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

Ruth Elizabeth Kavanaugh, age 93, died on Tuesday, September 27, 2022. Her life, her faith, her devotion to family, and her many contributions to the Kalamazoo community will be celebrated with a Life Story Visitation on Monday (OCT 3) from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, (269) 375-2900. A time of sharing will begin at 7 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday (OCT 4) at 11 AM at St. Monica Church, 534 W Kilgore Rd, Kalamazoo. Visitation at church will begin at 10 AM. The Rosary, Ruth’s favorite prayer, will be recited at 10:30 AM. Burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery immediately following mass. Also, a luncheon will be held in the Parish Community Building after the burial is completed.

Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. John W. Kavanaugh, and her sisters, Elizabeth L. Byrnes and Marie Harrington. She is survived by her four children: Mary (Bill) Bruinsma, John (Amy) Kavanaugh, Kathy (Ron) Doud, and Kevin Kavanaugh. Ruth has 13 grandchildren: John (Kaylie) Bruinsma, Vincent (Dana) Bruinsma, Joseph (Sara) Kavanaugh, Monica (Kevin) Hammer, Maria, Kate, Clare, Anna, and Gracie Kavanaugh, Kaili and Daniel Doud, Rachel (Matthew) Dallavalle, and Joseph Asma; a daughter-in-law, Veronica Asma Kavanaugh; and two great-grandchildren: Maxwell and Nathan Kavanaugh. She is also survived by many beloved nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends. Visit Ruth’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Monica Church.