100-year-old’s artistic life celebrated

Candy Neal/The Herald
Ruth Vonderschmitt holds one of her art pieces.


JASPER — Ruth Vonderschmitt has been creative all her life.

As a child, she would catch rabbits to sell to the local store to help her family.

As a young mother, she worked on farm and raised four girls with her husband, Rudy.

And in between all that, she nurtured her desire to create artistically.

Ruth, who turned 100 Monday, celebrated her life with family and friends on Saturday. The party was much like a gallery exhibition, displaying a sample of he more than 150 pieces of art Ruth has painted over her lifetime.

“I’d try anything,” Ruth said Monday. “When you try something, you may come to love it.”

She took a couple of classes when decided to learn how to paint in her 60s, after her daughters completed college.

“I didn’t have that much left to do,” she said. “So I thought I’d try it.”

For the most part, her talent and skill were self taught. “Well, that’s learning it,”Ruth said. “That’s the way you learn. When you see a beautiful sky, you want to paint it.”

Ruth was a member of the Dubois County Art Guild for years, has had her work in art shows and has earned awards. Many members of her family have some of her creative works. And she’s has done commissioned pieces, painting people’s home places for instance.

“I’ve met some nice people that way,” Ruth said, “and by gong to the art shows.”

Over her lifetime, Ruth has created hundreds of pieces of art in the various mediums in which she’s worked. That includes oil and watercolor paints, cloth and thread, and wood.

The wood is actual two violins she carved — one was the prototype, the other the actual violin that was strung and played.

Yes, she plays a little violin, and a little guitar. She plays the piano by ear. She doesn’t get to do these anymore, but he remembers. “I get homesick for my piano,” she said.

She took on the challenge os carving an actual violin after reading a book about Stradivarius violins.

“I saw that and thought, I could do that,” she said. “It took a few years, but I had other things to do, daughters and a family to take care of.”

Ruth was born in Ireland 1921 to Max and Elizabeth (Schuetter) Renner. Her mother made dresses for the family and for others as well as needlework and crocheting, skills that Ruth also learned.

“She also went from one thing to another,” Ruth said about her mother She was an artist too, in her own way.”

Ruth completed grade school and a year and a half of high school. She also helped out her family where she could.

When she married Rudy Vonderschmitt in November 1943, she moved to her husband’s homeplace in Jasper, which was a farm. They had four daughters: Bonnie Worland, Linda Uebelhor, Elaine Mills and Myra Hamilton. (Myra lives in Indianapolis.)

She worked hard on the farm with her husband — plowing fields, unloading corn wagons.

“She mowed her own grass on a riding mower until she was 90 years old,” daughter Linda said. “We kept telling her that we’d do it. But she wanted to get out.”

Rudy was musically inclined as well, playing the guitar.

“I can remember when we were little kids, there was an L-shaped porch around our house, and there was a wooden swing hanging,” Linda said. “We would sit up there sometimes in the summer and I remember mom and dad playing guitar in the evening.”

“Yeah. And they would sing, “ Bonnie added. “Mother could harmonize a little bit. They’d sing two-art harmony.”

Ruth continued staying on the family farm after her husband died in 2002. It was just recently, in 2019, when she moved into an assisted living facility.

Over the years, she painted landscapes, skies, homes and buildings, flowers, animals. She had no particular preference of the scenery.

“If I saw something I liked and thought I could do, I’d do that,” she said. “It was just whatever I liked.”

So if she saw a scene that was to her liking, she would start a painting of that. “Ususally it started that way,” she said, “but it ended up very different than what I thought it would be.”

The violin was a different kind of challenge.

“That violin was like piecework.You would just work it out yourself,” Ruth said happily. “You could see when its right and when it’s getting closer to right. And you keep going until you get it.”

Ruth’s daughters have picked up some of her artistic skills: cross-stitching, knitting, quilting, crocheting and sewing. And at least one grandchild paints.

Ruth explain why she loves art and expressing herself through art. And the answer is pretty simple.

“I love colors,” she said. “I like to take something, a plain sheet or cloth, and add color to it.”

“You made it beautiful,” Elaine said told her. “You’s take something that’s nothing and make it beautiful.”

“Well, if I saw something I like, I’d try to make it,” Ruth said. “That’s the way you learn.”

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