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L. Ruth Koontz

November 28, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about L. Ruth Koontz, who died Nov. 16 at the age of 56. Her obituary was published in the Nov. 19 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Growing up, John Koontz and Ruth Horst lived about a mile apart on Maugansville Road and went to school together from first to 12th grade.

"We even rode the same buses," John said, first to Maugansville Elementary School, then Washington Street School and finally North Hagerstown High School, from where they graduated in 1971.

Looking back, John said he isn't really sure why things bumped up a notch at that point.

"I just know that out of the clear blue, I called and asked her for a date," John said.

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He went to her house, where they watched a movie on television.

In those early days after graduation, John went to work for his father in the plastering/drywall business, while Ruth was employed in accounting by Hagerstown Trust Co.

By 1973, John and Ruth decided to make their union official and got married.

Two years later, John said the Lord first called on them to serve.

"We both went forward at the same time," he said, meaning they accepted that their lives would be taking a different path from that point.

John studied at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where he earned his associate degree in biblical and pastor studies. He was able to keep his "regular" job during the process.

"Much of my work was done over the computer, with a week spent on campus now and then," John said.

Ruth would accompany John when he went to Liberty for his studies.

Both John and Ruth attended Broadfording Bible Brethren Church. John said Pastor Bill Freed and his wife, Susan, inspired them to pursue a religious calling.

"In my case, the transformation was subtle," John said. But he stuck with it, learned his "trade" and now pastors at Pinesburg Baptist Church.

Bill Freed said he was contacted by telephone about Ruth's death, and though he and Susan were out of town, they came home to conduct the Nov. 21 funeral.

"I know Ruth loved gospel music," Bill said. "She sang in our choir -- a very strong alto voice."

When Ruth wasn't singing, she enjoyed square dancing and was a member of the Gad Abouts Square Dancing Club.

John's first ministry involved working for four years with the late Pastor Bill Clark, who started Mountain View Baptist Church west of Hagerstown.

The couple then served part time at Grace Baptist Church on Jefferson Boulevard for 16 years.

Though the Freeds were delighted when John and Ruth answered the latest call and began pastoring in Pinesburg, the choir at Broadfording still misses Ruth's voice.

"They were a great couple," Bill said. "A real asset to the ministry."

John stressed Ruth was every bit as enthusiastic as he was about the ministry. But family also was a vital part of the Koontz household.

When the couple's first child, Timothy, was born, Ruth stayed home with him for a while. She then took a job at Broadfording Christian Academy as an aide so she could balance work and family.

"I was employed at the academy then, too, in maintenance," John said. The couple later served as dorm parents at Antietam Bible College for two years.

A second son, Joshua, was born when Timothy was 4 years old.

"Life got very complicated, but Ruth could juggle a lot of balls," John said.

By then, Ruth had returned to the accounting field full time at First National Bank, John said. For the past 17 years, Ruth had been in accounting at Antietam Health Care.

When the call came for the Pinesburg church four years ago, John said he and Ruth found they were at the helm of a congregation of five.

"We now have about 45 worshippers," John said.

John is employed full time at Equipped for Life as a technician even though he continues to serve the Pinesburg church's needs, albeit alone now.

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