Below is a copy of the message I gave at the funeral service for Ruth Coates, on May 22, in the Steel and Wolfe Penco Chapel, Weirton, West Virginia.
And to tell you the truth, I’m not even sure I said that right, because I used the word “was.” You see, I came to Weirton this time of year, about ten years ago, and Ruth was one of the first people I met and of course, she told me how she’d served in World War Two as a Marine. And I thought that was pretty impressive. Well, I think we did some kind of recognition around Memorial Day over at the church, you know, acknowledging our veterans. It may have been during a worship service; I’m not sure. Anyway, when I asked all the former soldiers to stand, they did. And when I asked all the former sailors to stand, they did. And when I asked all the former airmen to stand, they did. And then I asked all the former Marines to stand. And I remember Ruth stood up, naturally, in her red Marine jacket. But before I could get to the Coast Guard, she said, “There are no former Marines. Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Now that I remember.
And you know, this morning, as we celebrate both Ruth and the promises of God, I think that’s sometime really important for us to remember, as well, that Ruth was a Marine. And I’ll tell you why. You see, as I think about Ruth’s life, and I only knew her for these last ten years, she had three qualities that would make any Marine proud to have, qualities that you can see reflected in the life she lived. But I’ve got a gut feeling that Sarg had them before she joined the corps.
You see, first, Ruth was dedicated, wasn’t she? Ruth was dedicated to her church and to her God, to her community and to her country, and Ruth was definitely dedicated to her friends. But I think family was right there at the top of Ruth’s list, particularly her sons. I mean, right after telling you about being a Marine, she’d talk about her boys and how hard it was to be both father and mother. Her focus was on you, and she was proud of the men you became. You see, like every good Marine, Ruth was dedicated.
And second, she was also strong. And I think you can sure see that strength right there on display after your dad passed. I think about myself; I really don’t know what I’d do without my wife. I mean, when times are tough, we kind of draw together so that we can face it as a united front. But Ruth didn’t have that for most of her life. But she not only faced, she overcame whatever she it was, including the passing of a son. Now to me that shows incredible strength, something else any Marine would be proud to have.
And third, my gosh, Ruth was honest. She was a straight-shooter. Man, you knew right where you stood with her. You never had to wonder if she was saying stuff behind your back. If she didn’t like something you did, she’d tell you face-to-face, in no uncertain terms. And then she’d let it go. And I’ve got to tell you, in a world in which we’re not sure whether the people we’re suppose to trust are telling us the truth, now you tell me that a person like Ruth isn’t a relief. Of course, I’m not saying that what she said always felt good. Sometimes she had all the subtly of a 2 x 4. What you did know was that she was being straight with you. When she thought you were wrong, she said it. And when she thought you were right, you could believe that too. Like every good Marine, along with being dedicated and strong, Ruth was honest.
And I’ll tell you why that’s important to remember this morning. Right now, we’re entering a time of separation. That’s all it is, just a time of separation. Like it says in the passage I read from Revelation, the day’s coming when God’s going to bring us all together in a recreated universe, where there’ll be no pain and no suffering and no death. And of course Ruth will be there, probably getting the angels to straighten up and fly right. But for us, that’s in the future. Right now, we’re in this time of separation. And I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be great, not only for ourselves, but for our country and our community, our friends and our families, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work some of Ruth into our characters. I mean, I’ve got to believe that the world around us would be better if we all were a little more dedicated and a little stronger and a little more honest.