One of Minnesota's oldest residents — beloved lifelong volunteer, mother and nana Ruth Adler Knelman — has died at the age of 111.
Known to many as "Grandma Ruth," Knelman had many friends and spent years volunteering as an early childhood education reader at Temple Israel and Jefferson Community School in Minneapolis.
There was an outpouring of love on social media following Knelman's death on May 16.
Knelman, of Minneapolis, was a member of Temple Israel for more than 70 years, where she dutifully attended services every Friday night. When the pandemic hit, she adapted to watching services on a computer from home.
Ruth had an active social life and loved to cook, travel, entertain and go to the casino with friends. Before her health began to decline about a month ago, she was having friends over for bridge and visited the casino to play the penny slots, said her son Kip Knelman, 73.
Edward Knelman, Ruth's husband , was a traveling salesman and away often, and Ruth was a homemaker. She made an effort to be a part of the Jewish community in the 1950s and 60s and spent more than 40 years volunteering with the Mount Sinai Hospital Women's Auxiliary.
She later volunteered at Temple Israel. "It was there that I believe she made so many more connections that, until she passed ... those connections were very, very strong," Kip Knelman said.
She was a teacher's aide in the early childhood education center at temple, where she was adored by the children as she read to them and told stories.
"She was there for so long that many of the young kids that were in her classes became mothers themselves and their kids ended up in the nursery school," Kip Knelman said. "So she had basically two generations. I think that's where she picked up Grandma Ruth, because everybody looked at her as their grandmother."
She was an "icon" at temple, and her presence put their congregation in a different category, said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. "It made Temple Israel special to have her as a member. She was so vibrant, so connected to Judaism, so loving to our early childhood students and to everybody she met."
Ruth Knelman loved reading to the kids but loved their parents even more, and she befriended many younger parents as her friends passed away, Zimmerman said.
"As her close friends died, she didn't stop. Many people of that age would just bemoan the loss, which she did, it was horrible to lose all her friends. But she made new friends," Zimmerman said.
The moms would come and have cocktail hour with Ruth at five o'clock. Or they would visit in the morning, because she loved coffee and croissants and pastries, Zimmerman added.
Even though family members found her on lists of oldest people in the state or country, her son never looked at her that way -she never seemed old and never got sick, he said.
Ruth Knelman lived alone and walked or took public transit everywhere. She took just one pill — a rarity for her age — and had an unbelievable memory, her son said. Up until the pandemic, she still traveled with her family and her numerous friends.
"She really didn't let anything get in her way. To some degree, I think that was one reason why she lived so long. She had this will, she had this the stubbornness in her that just kept on moving her forward," Kip Knelman said. "She enjoyed life. She always wanted to wake up the next morning because she had something that she was going to be doing."
Along with her son, Ruth Knelman is survived by three grandsons and one great granddaughter. Services have been held.