June 16, 1934 — Dec. 17, 2012
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Ruth June Sherrard passed away in her Placerville home on Dec. 17, 2012, after a short illness. Her family was with her at the time of her death. She was born in Sonora, Calif., on June 16, 1934, to Liselotte and Herman Sherrard. Her father became the Agricultural Commissioner of Tuolomne County and the family, which included Ruth’s older brother James, led a life that centered on an appreciation of nature and the out-of-doors. As a young girl she hiked all over the Sierra Nevada and spent several entire summers camping with her mother and brother around Lake Tenaya.
Ruth graduated from Sonora High School in 1952 and attended San Jose State College, where she studied occupational therapy, biology and art. She spent the next 30 years in San Francisco, working for Eastman Kodak and General Electric. Early on she developed a lifelong friendship with a prominent Bay Area attorney and developer, with whom she shared a love of adventure. She participated in river rafting trips in the Northwest, Canada and Alaska, and spent many hours sailing in the San Francisco Bay. One memorable and terrifying day, Ruth was alone ina tiny, eight-foot sailing vessel that was carried by the winds and tides out of the bay as far as the Farallon Islands before she maneuvered the craft, with the help of the tides, back to safety. In the late 1950s she crewed on a 50-foot boat that sailed down the West Coast and through the Panama Canal.
In her young adulthood, Ruth backpacked and bicycled through Europe on two occasions, financing her travels by working as a pack train guide in the Sierras and by dealing cards in casinos at South Lake Tahoe. On her first trip abroad, at the age of 17, she was eventually joined by her mother. The two traveled to Nuremburg, her mother’s childhood home, where Ruth met many of her German relatives. Her second trip to Europe is chronicled in a book, Gypsy Boots, by her traveling companion, Sharon Stine. The two young women spent a year-and-a-half hitchhiking, sleeping in hostels and existing on a budget of $1.50 per day, at one point taking jobs as nannies in Switzerland to finance their travels and their love of skiing. Neither woman let on to their families that they were hitching, sending cryptic messages of well-being on postcards to the folks back home.
In later years, Ruth rejoined her mother in Sonora to help care for her ailing father, and in 1986 the two women moved to Placerville to be near James. They built a home on Union Ridge Road, where they resided for many years. Ruth provided companionship for her mothers, who lived to be nearly 100 years of age. Many people in and around Placerville have encountered Ruth on the trails and streets of town. For years she has walked as many as five miles a day, and possibly logged more miles on the city’s trails than any other person. She enjoyed meeting fellow walkers and made several enduring friendships on the trails. In the past decade she traveled on three occasions to Alaska, where she drove with one of her walking companions from Anchorage to the Arctic Ocean and took a ferry out to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. She shared a love of reading with her neighbor, whom she met while walking, and discovered simple delights such as a source of excellent local honey with another person whose home she walked by nearly every day.
Ruth was genuinely interested in the world around her and the people she encountered and her friendship was true. She will be dearly missed by her brother, James Sherrard of Placerville. She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Happy, as well as her nephew, Scott Sherrard of Placerville, who lovingly cared for his aunt during her illness. Other survivors include Scott’s wife, Jeane; his daughters, Jaime and Mindi; and Mindi’s family. Her nephew, Steven Sherrard, preceded her in death.
No services are planned. Donations in Ruth’s memory may be made to the Trail Fund of the El Dorado Community Foundation, 3097 Cedar Ravine, Placerville, CA 95667.