The woman who began the Hospice program at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and later developed the signature “Katerpillar Kids Camp” for Covenant Health has died.
Ruth Fuson, 92, of Knoxville, passed away on January 5, 2023. The family will receive friends from noon until 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, at First Baptist Church of Knoxville, followed by a Celebration of Life service with Dr. Brent McDougal officiating.
Young Ruth Hooper always wanted to be a missionary, according to her obituary. She was admitted to a Baptist college in Kentucky at age 16 and graduated at age 20 with a bachelor’s degree in sacred music. Two years later, she received a master’s of religious education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
That’s where she met her future husband, Dr. Jack Fuson, who had just finished his education there to become a dentist.
Shortly after their marriage, Jack was off to Goose Bay Labrador Air Force Base in Canada to serve his military duty, and Ruth moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, where she taught first grade. Jack arranged for Ruth to visit him for 30 days, the maximum time allowed a civilian. They would stay in the honeymoon cottage on base. While there, a fourth-grade teaching position became available so Ruth was able to stay in Goose Bay with Jack. Ruth also directed the Chapel Choir on base and served as a chaplain’s assistant.
After his discharge, Jack and Ruth explored cities where there was a need for dentists. They landed in Sevierville, Tennessee, where Ruth became the first full-time choir director for the First Baptist Church of Sevierville.
While her situation was not unique, Ruth’s reaction was. When Jack returned to college to become an oral surgeon, Ruth taught at Knoxville South High. But she also studied grief counseling at East Tennessee Baptist Hospital to become a chaplain. She later said her 10-years-plus career with Hospice and the Katerpillar Kids Camp was her “most gratifying work.”
Her pioneering spirit and knowledge of grief counseling combined to create programs that continue to comfort adults facing death and kids who have experienced the death of a parent or friend. Ruth Hooper Fuson achieved her career goal. Not all missionaries travel overseas.