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Activist Ruth Jorgensen dies at 94
Ruth Caswell Jorgensen, whose family ties linked her to two significant pioneer families and who brought art, culture and historical preservation efforts to Ceres, died Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. She was 94.

Mrs. Jorgensen died from complications from Alzheimer's Disease, which she suffered from for a number of years. She was a lifelong resident of the Modesto-Ceres area until she was moved in 2008 to Danville to be close to the care of her daughter Joanne and son-in-law Mark Perra. Ruth died at the Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living Skilled Nursing Unit in Danville.

Mrs. Jorgensen was perhaps best known by general members of the community as the owner of Bob's Yuletide Forest, a Christmas tree lot which was shared at her Mitchell Road residence. The farm was started in 1962 by Ruth and husband Homer as a project for their son, Bob, who suffered from cerebral palsy. They planted 7,000 trees and built a small homemade train. Bob devoted half of his 45 years to farm operations until his disease progressed and led to his death in 1990. The tree farm closed after the 1995 Christmas tree season.

Mrs. Jorgensen was widowed in 2005.

Ever the history lover, Ruth helped spur the city's purchase of the Daniel Whitmore Home in the late 1980s. With Caryl Fowler she co-authored a Soroptimist booklet on Ceres named "Town of Ceres: A Historical Stroll" in 1985. Ruth was also active as a member of the McHenry Museum and Stanislaus Historical Society.

Helen Ruth Caswell Jorgensen was born April 10, 1916 to Henry Caswell (1876-1949) and Helen Cross at their Vivian Road ranch. Her aunt, Jennie Caswell, married into the Whitmore family and inherited and lived in the 1903 Clinton Whitmore House from 1912 until her death in 1966.

Ruth's grandfather, Irish immigrant Thomas Caswell, granted the 640 acres on Stanislaus River west of Ripon to the state for Caswell Memorial State Park.

Ruth attended Fairview Elementary School in south Modesto and graduated from Modesto High School, Modesto Junior College and San Jose State College. She returned to Stanislaus County in 1937 and worked for the county Welfare Department. She married civil engineer Homer Jorgensen in 1941 and the unions produced two children, Robert "Bob" and Joanne.

Ruth made a name for herself in local art circles individually and with her talented sisters, Mary Bucknam and Edith Wheeler, winning a number of awards. Ruth enjoyed painting in oils and water colors, often focussing on historical vistas.

Mrs. Jorgensen was a member of the Soroptimist International of Ceres and the Ceres Historical Society. She was also a deacon at Harvest Presbyterian Church.

She was esteemed with the Ceres "Citizen of the Year" award in 1989 and was "Soroptimist of the Decade." Her work included UNICEF and the Ceres Western Art Show before it closed down.