Obituary: Ruth Noren

Missionary in China, longtime Pilgrim Place resident

Muriel Ruth Noren, a Claremont resident who spent a lifetime as a missionary in Hong Kong and China, died peacefully on her 99th birthday, February 22, 2018.

She was born February 22, 1919 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Her grandfather helped establish the First Baptist Church in Sheboygan, where her grandparents, parents and numerous relatives were active leaders.

Mrs. Noren held a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Ottawa University, Kansas. She did Chinese language study at Yale Language School and took graduate courses at Boston University, Denver University, Columbia University and Hong Kong University.

Early in her career, Mrs. Noren did urban church work, including summer camp counseling under the Boston City Mission and youth work at Union Congregational Church in Boston, where Loren E. Noren was the pastor. The two were married on New Year’s Eve, 1941.

The couple’s work relationship set the pattern for their lifelong commitment as partners in ministry with the Chinese people in China and in Hong Kong, from 1946 to 1986, under International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches.

Mrs. Noren’s work in the Chinese setting included teaching church-related social work at Hong Kong Baptist College and supervising field work for social work students, serving as advisor to the Family Life Committee of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and organizing family life training sessions in Chinese Christian churches. She also produced writing workshop materials on changing family patterns for Asian Christian women’s conferences, promoted efforts of the family planning association by showing films and introducing parents to family clinics and giving devotional talks in Chinese language for women, youth and children, as well as wrote children’s stories about Chinese family life which were published in the United States.

In China, Mrs. Noren was instrumental in organizing sharing groups for nurses, college students, pastors’ wives and career women on topics such as changing roles of Asian women, superstition and religion, family communication, priorities in the rapidly-changing city of Hong Kong, and expressions of Christian faith in a Chinese context. She taught English as a second language in Christian centers and traveled from Hong Kong to the US with Asian children whose adoptions were arranged by International Social Service.

Since her 1986 retirement at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Mrs. Noren served in the senior community’s world affairs and health and welfare committees and assisted patients in the Health Services Center.

For many years, she worked at the international bazaar booth at the annual Pilgrim Place Festival, where her specialty was selling exotic clothing from around the world. She enjoyed arranging flowers for the garden lounge and Pitzer Lodge, and using silk screening to make four-color note cards. Most importantly, she valued the rich friendships and ongoing support of the Pilgrim Place community.

During her many years in assisted living at Pitzer Lodge and later at Pilgrim Place’s Health Services Center, she greatly appreciated the loving kindness and dedication of her caregivers.

Mrs. Noren was preceded in death by her husband, Reverend Loren E. Noren, in 1992.

She is survived by her son, Carl (Carol Cochran), who lives in San Francisco and is a computer systems analyst; daughter Joy (John McRae), a Port Clinton, Ohio resident who is the retired founder/director of the Language Training Institute in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; daughter Debbie (Mark Fuller), a reading specialist in Austin; and three grandchildren, Guy Noren, Katie Fuller and Luke Fuller.

“Ruth was well known for her love of the outdoors, particularly lakes and oceans,” her family shared. “In her retirement years, she was often seen riding her bicycle, popularly known as ‘the white Cadillac,’ with her colorful scarves waving in the breeze.”

There will be a memorial service at Evergreen Cemetery in Superior, Nebraska, Rev. Noren’s hometown.


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