Kathy Ruth Neal, self taught wood carver, 1945-2009

(3 pieces  of Kathy Ruth’s work will on display at the Belger Gallery show “Rare Visions, Detour Art” opening March 6, 2009)
(from the Kansas City Star obituaries)
Kathy Ruth Neal died on Wednesday, February 11, 2009, of leukemia. She was at home with her dear companion of 20 years, Mary Susan Sanders. The night before, her twin sister Louise and brother-in-law Tony Pedroza of Topeka, her daughter Michelle Hooper of Belton, Mo., and her two sweet grandsons Brendan and Andrew Hooper were able to kiss her good-bye.

Kathy Ruth was a self-taught woodcarver of growing renown. Her art pieces have been displayed in many galleries, museums and private collections locally, as well as internationally. Her woodcarvings depict vignettes of American life: events of the day, at the movies, the circus, politics. Some of her art work will be shown at the Belger Gallery in Kansas City in March 2009. Kathy Ruth was born on November 6, 1945 in Oakland, Calif. She was the granddaughter of the silent screen actor Walter Whipple who starred with William S. Hart in the 1916 film “Hell’s Hinges.”

She came to Kansas City in the 1960s when she became a flight attendant for TWA. Flying internationally, she enjoyed the adventure of meeting new people, celebrities, and exploring the world. She stopped flying in the 1970s to raise her daughter Michelle, who was named after the Beatles song. She resumed flying for TWA in the 1980s. Finally, she ended her TWA career in 1989 and made Kansas City her permanent home.

To recuperate after surviving breast cancer in 1993, she went hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Inexplicably, she felt compelled to pick up a stick and carve designs in the wood. This led to a 15-year success story in her woodcarving art. Susan: “Kathy Ruth was the sweetest, bravest, most beautiful spirit. Everyone who knew her felt like smiling.”

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the Mary Susan Sanders and Katherine R. Neal Foundation at GKCCF, 1055 Broadway, Suite 130, KCMO 64105. The Sanders and Neal Foundation supports the arts and mental health. Arrangements: Mt. Moriah and Freeman 816-942-2004.