In Memory of Frances Fruth, 1928-2019
Frances Elizabeth Rhodes Fruth of Point Pleasant, WV finished a long and amazing life on January 21, 2019. She was born on August 2, 1928 to the late Frances Morrow Rhodes and Robert Lincoln Rhodes of South Charleston, Ohio. Named for her mother, Frances quickly picked up the nickname “Baby” until her younger sister Winnie was born 11 months later. Unable to pronounce “Baby”, Winnie called her sister “Babs” a nickname that she would use for her whole life.
“Babs” and Winnie grew up during the lean times of the depression, and spent their days playing with their best friend Fredric Tindall, their next-door neighbor. Brother Steve was born in 1946 to complete the family. “Babs” excelled at school, loved to sing and read, and was the Valedictorian of the 1946 Class of South Charleston High School. “Babs” was accepted to Ohio Wesleyan College and studied there a year before transferring to The Ohio State University. She would later confide that she felt out of place at Wesleyan because the girls there were from wealthy families and all had cashmere sweaters.
At Ohio State she joined the Chi Omega Sorority, and while there, met an outgoing young man from West Virginia named Jack Fruth. “Babs” was actually pinned to Jack’s roommate, but when that romance ended, he pursued her diligently. It took Jack one full year to get a first date, the movie “the Red Shoes” and almost another full year to get her to agree to a second date. Jack would later say that it was his greatest success of salesmanship. He eventually won her heart, and the two were married on December 30, 1950. “Babs” had graduated from Ohio State in June of 1950 with a degree in Home Economics and English. She took a teaching job in a nearby school system, and Jack graduated the following summer from Ohio State Pharmacy School. Jack took a job at Gallaher Drug Company with locations both in Springfield and Xenia, Ohio, and it was in Xenia that son Michael was born. The young couple and baby moved back near Jack’s hometown in West Virginia, establishing Fruth Pharmacy in Point Pleasant on November 2, 1952.
“Babs” excelled at being a wonderful wife and mother, and they quickly added four other children to the family, Joan, Carol, Lynne, and John.
As her husband worked long hours at Fruth Pharmacy, “Babs” was unselfish in order to help Fruth Pharmacy succeed. She managed the household, the children and all kinds of activities. “Babs” was a Cub Scout den mother, a Girl Scout leader, a homeroom mother, and chauffeur and cheering section for softball, little league, girls basketball, dance recitals, horse shows, tennis matches, chess tournaments, wrestling matches and swim lessons. She loved to play cards and board games with the children and encouraged each of them to excel at their own passions. She instilled in her children a love of nature on their walks in the state parks and her skill with identifying birds, trees, and flowers. “Babs” would enjoy birdwatching and flower gardening for her entire life.
“Babs” also helped with Fruth Pharmacy by having the children deliver ads door to door in Point Pleasant. She would bring the kids to the store to help construct Easter Baskets and wrap gifts at Christmas. With a family of seven, she also spent a good deal of time at the laundromat each week. The kids would go and help with the mountains of laundry, and then escape to Fruth Pharmacy for a Coke and a comic book. Seeing the quantity of laundry, one day a man asked if she was running a hotel. She replied, “sometimes I feel like it.”
“Babs” and Jack and the children celebrated family vacations each year at a cabin at one of West Virginia’s State Parks. Later, she and Jack learned to ski and most of the children and grandchildren skied as well. “Babs” would ski until the age of 75, a remarkable feat. “Babs” and Jack loved family time and vacations, and in 1991 they purchased a small cottage on Lake Jackson in Oak Hill, Ohio. They enjoyed many years of fishing, campfires, and family time at the lake. This cottage, Beaver Point, was a special place for them to relax as a couple and enjoy nature. “Babs” was her husband’s greatest supporter, and Jack was her greatest admirer.
While “Babs” excelled at being a mother, she experienced an even greater love of being a grandmother. Time spent with the eight grandchildren was a joy to her. She loved watching the grandchildren swim, fish, and participate in activities. She enjoyed teaching even the youngest how to play cards, starting with Crazy 8s. “Babs” was a huge sports fan and followed her Ohio State Buckeye Football Team closely, attending home games into her 80’s. She also loved college basketball and her Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Babs” loved history and did extensive research about both her and Jack’s family history. An extremely well read and intelligent person, “Babs” disliked the limelight and was more content to support others’ accomplishments. She could discuss business, sports, politics, or nature with ease. “Babs” was active in Fruth Pharmacy, serving as the Secretary of the Corporation and a member of the Board of Directors. She served many years at the West Virginia Farm Museum and was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church for 66 years. “Babs” was open minded, lacked prejudice, and all were welcome in her home. She taught her children the values of acceptance and tolerance. “Babs” was also a thoughtful and generous giver, teaching by example to help others in need. Together with her husband and Fruth Pharmacy, “Babs” was instrumental in helping establish over 40 annual scholarships with contributions of over one million dollars. Their desire was to help others succeed through education.
In addition to her parents, “Babs” was preceded in death by her husband of 54 years, Jack Edward Fruth, nephew Henry David Rossi, nieces Amy Strathern Taylor, Pam Crooks Ewing, and Jeanette Crooks Thomas, close friend Ruth Flowers, and two wonderful dogs, Gabby and Maxie.
“Babs” is survived by her five children (and spouses), Michael Edward Fruth of Wellston, OH, Joan Elizabeth Fruth (Gregory Sheets) of Oak Hill, OH, Carol Rhodes Fruth of Point Pleasant, Lynne Morrow Fruth (Mark Madore) of Winfield, WV and John Rothgeb Fruth (Joyce Fruth) of Kokomo, IN. Eight grandchildren and (spouses/partners): Nicole Trovato (Dave Fleminger), Stephanie Fruth Knight (Joe Knight), Christopher John Fruth (Kim-Hoang Ruiz Fruth), Elizabeth Trovato (DJ Strawberry), Patrick McCormick (Tracy Shepard), Jack Alexander Fruth (Scott Setchfield), Michael David Fruth, and Thomas Baker Foust. In addition, she leaves great-grandchildren Sofia McCormick and Dominic Strawberry. She is also survived by sister Lynnette “Winnie” Strathern of Orem, UT, brother Robert Steven Rhodes (Mary Rhodes), of Chicago, IL, special cousins David Morrow (Shirley Morrow) and Mary Lou Rhodes, a host of nieces and nephews, friends and helpers, Mike and Lynne Fetty, and her beloved pet dog Fievel.
In keeping with her wishes, there will be a private graveside service at Kirkland Memorial Gardens. A celebration of a “Life Well Lived” will be held on Saturday, January 26, at 11:00 am at Trinity United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant, WV. The family will welcome visitors one-hour prior at the church. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, the family recommends a donation to: Fruth Scholarship Fund, 4016 Ohio River Road, Point Pleasant, WV 25550 or Trinity United Methodist Church, 615 Viand St., Point Pleasant, WV 25550, or simply reach out in kindness and generosity and help someone in need.
The family of “Babs” Fruth wishes to thank Lynne Fetty, and the staff of St. Mary’s Hospital for the wonderful care that she received.