In the early hours of December 27th, 2023, my grandmother passed away following a short battle with cancer.
Ruth Etta Tender was born November 18th, 1941 in Carey, Ohio to Henry F. And Catherine (Myers) Davidson. She developed a love for animals at an early age, riding horses with her older brothers. This love was pervasive throughout her entire life. By her own count she owned 19 horses and cared for countless more through 28 years of work as a technician at a veterinary clinic. She loved and was loved by her many cats and dogs.
During her visitation this past week, I received many of her former colleagues from her years at the clinic. Some she worked with for decades, others only a few short months as interns many years ago. Her passion for the work was clearly very inspiring. I saw this through many quiet days of “babysitting” by grandma while she was at work, by working with her own barn, and through many hot weeks in Eminence, Missouri at the Cross-Country Trail Ride—an event she attended for 36 years. 
Given the short notice of visitation, I was floored by the attendance and exhausted at its conclusion. I was surprised at just how few people I didn’t know in what proved to be a very long line. My go-to question for those I’d met 20 years ago and others I was introduced to for the first time that evening was “how long did you know my grandmother.” Thinking on my own friendships, I can’t fathom having so many close friends for such long periods of time. Their answers were a consistent testament to her personality and character.
My grandmother was intrepid and her spirit was infectious. Family was her priority and she showed that by showing up and taking us with her to new and exciting places. She always jumped at the chance for a cross-country roadtrip or trail ride. She made fast friends with people across the country. Many of these friendships spanned decades, others lifetimes.
This Summer she traveled a lot, driving across the country with her youngest son Jamie to Spokane, Washington. There, in August, she was kayaking and riding jet-skis. By all accounts, she was as healthy as she’s ever been. We only learned about her condition in October, when it had progressed beyond the point of surgery and, as we’d later learn, any form of treatment. She was 82 years old when she passed, but never acted like it.
It was her vivaciousness that made it so difficult to see her sick. Her diagnosis came like a light switch. No more mucking stalls or unloading hay as we had done with her just months before. She was, instead, relegated to couches and hospital beds. As hard as it was for myself and our family to see her stagnate, I know it was more difficult for her, tenfold. Despite her physical decline, I know that she was thankful for her memory, which was impressive, uncanny, and stayed sharp through the end.
She put up a fight. And that’s how I knew her. I never knew her to quit on anything difficult in her life and she was a major support to her whole family at every difficult juncture in their own. She’s a role model to her three children, seven grandchildren, and all of their partners.
My dad’s side of the family has suffered a lot of loss in the last 4 years. In 2020, we lost my Great Aunts Phyllis and Therese as well as a close family friend. Last year, we lost my Great Uncle Bob. My grandmother stayed with Phyllis and Bob through their own medical problems towards the end. This is something I know their son, my cousin Alan, appreciates endlessly. I know that because, in that same way, I have unending gratitude to my Aunt Jodie who stayed with her mother in every facility throughout this whole affair. It’s not hard to see where she inherited that level of dedication from. I grieve for my aunt, my grandfather, and for all of us in what we’ve lost, but feel grateful for what we’ve gained from knowing her.
In myself, I recognize a passion for family history and writing. Despite knowing him such a short time, I’ve felt like a kindred spirit to my great grandfather Henry for my entire life. Grandma being the joining link in that chain.  Of course, if you know me at all, you’re aware of my penchant for collecting things. That’s something else my grandma and I have in common. Me, toys, books, and music. Her, stick horses and vintage sewing machines.
This week, Mae and I went into Cleveland to celebrate our anniversary at the art museum. Afterwards, we got Pad Thai and visited the partially revived Big Fun Toy Store in Coventry. The owner, who closed the store around five years ago, reopened in a pop-up capacity to sell off some of his remaining stores. There on consignment, up on a high shelf, there was an in-box Howdy-Doody ventriloquist doll. It was just like the one I asked my grandmother for as a child in an antique store, which she repaired and clothed by hand. Without thinking twice about it, I snapped a photo and began to compose a message to my grandma about what I’d found. The stone that dropped in my stomach just then took me complete surprise.
It’s wild what one day removed from an ongoing grieving process will do to trick the mind.
My dad, sister and I, blessed by sheer geographic proximity, have enjoyed a wealth of time with my grandparents.  They’ve been there for all of the major moments in our lives. Every birthday, graduation or court of honor, Christmas holiday, and time of loss—they’ve been there to celebrate or mourn with us. There have been countless minor moments too. I fondly recall Sunday mornings at their house while my dad hunted and Grandma sliced up fried mush for a late breakfast and prepared hearty beef stews for dinner. I remember many a lunch and dinner at the regular spots.  I’ll never forget the countless days of choring on the property either. Leaves, hay and horses, and various home repairs became more frequent for us Ohio Tenders as we got a little older and they needed more help getting things done. Grandma was there of course, pitching in even when she didn’t have to. Visits could come at any given moment as she and grandpa passed through Wooster.
All of this is why, in that absent-minded moment at the toy store, I was first struck by a new and unforgiving absence. I didn’t know what to do with that, so I texted Jodie instead. Just to feel—in some way—closer to her. All of this is new. I’m finding out now just how many ways she’s individually been an anchor for our family. I know that it will be difficult and maybe even awkward at times, but we’re going to have to find new ways to be with each other, without her.
I will miss her company, her correspondence, and her tea rings during the holidays.  But more than anything, I’ll miss the unwavering love and support she’s provided me with for all 30 years of my life. I acknowledge now that you only get so close to so many people in your life. She was my earliest friend and I’ll remember her as that for as long as I live.
I write this tearfully, but peacefully knowing that—in some way—she’s reunited with her parents, siblings, sisters in law, many friends, and 17 horses waiting for her in what I imagine is a big beautiful pasture.
Rest adventurously, Grandma. I love you more than these few words can adequately describe and I feel so fortunate to be your grandson.
I should note that her love for animals did not extend to snakes. But that didn’t stop her from floating down some of the USA’s most venomous waterways in an inner-tube every summer. ↩︎
One of my strongest triggers for this grief is that I won’t have her to run questions or notes by as I continue assembling her family’s genealogy. ↩︎
Grandma travelled to all corners of the country to visit her kids and grandkids. She even travelled to Japan to visit when her daughter and family lived there. My dad, sister and I are the only ones who remain in Ohio. ↩︎
Shout-out to Bob Evans, Lou’s Landing, Casa Del Rio, and Alexandris for good food and company over the years. ↩︎
This is a trigger waiting to drop next year. She had a lot of holiday plans for 2023. Painting Santas with my sister and Mae and making tea rings with me were among them. ↩︎
Published by Waite & Son's Funeral Home
Ruth Etta Tender, 82, passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, in Medina, Ohio after a short battle with cancer. She was born November 18, 1941 in Carey, Ohio to the late Henry F. and Catherine (Myers) Davidson.
She was raised in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Bishop Watterson High School in 1959. After graduation, she worked for Ohio State Life Insurance. In 1957, at the age of 15, she met Ken Tender. They dated through high school and college and were married on September 19, 1964, a marriage lasting 59 years.
Ruth Etta deeply loved her family, friends, church, and country. She was a charter member of Holy Martyr’s Catholic Church. Throughout her life, Ruth Etta had many varied interests. She was an accomplished artist and tole painting instructor. Each year, she entered several of her painted pieces of art and crafts in the Medina County Fair, earning many first-place Blue Ribbons and Best of Show awards. She encouraged others to participate, emphasizing “if people don’t offer entries, there won’t be interesting things to see at the fair.”
Ruth Etta was introduced to her brother’s horse when she was four years old. From that age forward, second only to her love for her family, caring for her horses was her life-long interest, love, and passion. Simply stated, anything “horse” made Ruth Etta smile.
Her passion for horses led her to serve as a Medina County 4-H equine youth advisor for 13 years. Ruth Etta along with her horses and family attended the Cross Country Trail Ride in Eminence, MO every June for 36 years. This event was an annual reunion of family and great friends.
Ruth Etta was deeply involved in Medina Rotary club service projects serving the Medina County community for 30 years and received recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow. Additionally, she served as a scout leader for Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Brownies.
She loved caring for animals, large and small, and was employed as a Veterinarian Technician for 28 years by the Sharon Center Veterinary Hospital.
Ruth Etta loved everything vintage, including her husband, Kenny. She collected vintage sewing machines, dolls, and stick horses. Her holiday tea rings and monster cookies throughout the year will be greatly missed by family and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Catherine (Myers) Davidson, as well as her brothers and sisters-in-law: Charles Davidson, Paul and Therese (Riesbeck) Davidson, and Robert and Phyllis (Riesbeck) Davidson.
Ruth Etta is survived by her devoted husband of 59 years, Kenneth, and their loving children John Tender, Jamie (Elizabeth) Tender, and Jodie (Mike) Ward. She leaves behind a legacy of warmth and caring through her seven cherished grandchildren: Jacob (Mae) and Sarah Tender. William (Loxi), Emily, and Katelyn Tender. Hannah and Brandon Ward. Ruth Etta held a special place in her heart for her beloved nieces and nephews and dear friends Eileen Cohen and Debby Davis. She will be missed by her horses, Honey and Duke, as well as her loyal cat Timmy Ertl.
Ruth Etta Tender will be deeply missed but forever remembered for the love and joy she brought into the lives of those around her. May she rest in eternal peace.
On Friday, December 29, 2023, there will be a Funeral Mass at Holy Martyr’s Church at 10:00 am located at 3100 Weymouth Road, Medina, OH 44256. The family will also receive family and friends on Friday, December 29, from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm at the Waite & Son Funeral Home, located at 785 N. Court Street, Medina, OH 44256. A private burial will be held on Saturday.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Medina County Historical Society located at 206 N. Elmwood Ave., Medina, Ohio, 44256.