Arrena Runft Karp Oliver, 95, of Boise and former Baker City resident, died April 18, 2003 at her home.
At Arrena’s request, no services will be held, but there will be a gathering to celebrate her life at the Hillcrest Country Club, 4610 Hillcrest Drive in Boise at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 2.
Arrangements are by Summers Funeral Homes, Boise Chapel.
Born on Oct. 9, 1907, she was the eldest of four children of John and Elisabeth “Bessie” McIlvain Brown of Council Grove, Kan. She grew up on the family farm homesteaded by her great-grandparents James and Mary McIlvain in the Big John area on the Neosho River in Morris County, Kan. She grew up in the bosom of an extended family of many generations of related homesteaders and particularly enjoyed the frequent gatherings and Christmas festivities, which often were centered at the home of her grandfather John McIlvain.
Always a good student, she took the state teacher’s exam upon graduation from high school in 1925, qualified, attended summer school in Emporia State Teacher’s College, and started teaching grade school in a country school when she was 17 years old.
She taught at various grade schools in Kansas and continued her education at Ottawa University and the University of Kansas. She remained a teacher throughout her life, whether teaching in school or requiring proper grammar of her children and grandchildren.
Her teaching career included a fourth-grade class of 44 students at Tiedemann Elementary School in Baker City in 1946-1947.
In 1926 she met Donald Runft of Herrington, Kan., and, despite the effects of the Great Depression, they were married on May 21, 1932.
They did not announce their marriage and told only close friends, since married women teachers lost their jobs to heads of households during those hard economic times. As the result of the deepening depression, the bank in Pawnee City, Neb., where Don was employed, went broke in the spring of 1934. Like many of their generation they made the decision to head West.
They announced their marriage, she quit her job, and in July 1935 they departed for the West, she being the first in four generations of her family to permanently leave Kansas.
They lived a year in Seattle, and in 1935, Don was offered a position in Baker City, which began his lifelong career as office manager/comptroller of a mining company. From 1937 until his death in 1964, Don was employed by Porter Bros. Mining Company, and as a consequence they moved a number of times.
Don and Arrena formed many life-long friendships among the young couples they met while in Baker City from 1937 to 1941. During this time their two children, John and Dona, were born.
With the advent of World War II and the Gold Closing Act of 1941, gold mining came to an end. The young family was transferred to other mining operations.
After World War II, they relocated in Baker City, where many old friendships were renewed. During these years, there were many social activities, including lots of square dancing, scouting, and picnics in the mountains, and Arrena joined the Eastern Star and Don was an active Mason.
Arrena became a charter member of chapter CJ PEO, an association in various chapters which she cherished all her life.
In the summer of 1953, the family moved to Boise, since the focus of the mining operations had changed to Idaho. With her children graduating from high school and leaving home, Arrena went back to teaching full time in 1956. She joined chapter AQ-PEO in Boise.
On Nov. 2, 1964, Arrena suffered the shock of her life when her husband Donald died suddenly at age 59 of a heart attack. The months following were dark days for Arrena, which were exacerbated by the absence of her daughter, who had moved to Germany where her husband was assigned as a medical officer.
Life, however, has new leases for those who are positive at heart. A dear friend from the early Baker City days, William “Bill” Karp came to see Arrena. His wife, Merna, had died unexpectedly in 1964. With their common background and mutual friends, a new relationship blossomed between Bill and Arrena.
They were married on Jan. 22, 1966, in St. John’s Cathedral in Boise. She moved to Bill’s home in Springfield, where she made many friends and joined chapter DI-PEO. Arrena also became a very beloved grandmother to the children of Bill’s sons, Chris and William Jr.
She was renowned to all her grandkids, grand nieces and nephews, and the children of friends for her letters, which, in addition to being personal and colorful, always contained a stick of gum.
Life with Bill came to a sudden end with his unexpected death on April 21, 1975. Arrena moved back to Boise in August of 1975 where her children were located. In 1976, she began 13 years of world travel, from Europe, the South Seas, to the Great Wall of China and places in between.
Arrena continued to travel through most of the 1980s, visiting the Karp families in Nome, Alaska, and returning to the Europe and the South Seas.
Her sisters and brother moved to Sun City, Ariz., and there were many trips to that destination.
Another change in her life style came at 81 as the result of an invitation to coffee from a man who lived nearby.
On March 25, 1989, Arrena and James “Jim” Oliver were married in the Baptist Temple. Jim’s sons, Curtis and Cory, and their families were added to her “greater family.”
She and Jim traveled to Arizona and enjoyed taking trips to neighboring towns and in the nearby mountains.
The cards and letters (and gum) continued to flow from Arrena’s pen to family and friends and she continued to add to her 18 volumes of pictures and momentos from her life.
Her mind remained razor sharp throughout her 95 years. She enjoyed life, and always said that she had indeed had a wonderful life for which she was very thankful. She believed in God in a very personal, and perhaps somewhat deistic sense. She believed that no one had a monopoly on salvation, but that God’s mercy extended to all. She felt that she had received valuable instruction from her religious affiliations during her life. And, she maintained this positive outlook, with Jim as her faithful companion, to the end of her days.
Arrena is survived by her companion and third husband, Jim Oliver; her son John Runft and wife Enid and their children, Linda Runft, Marnie Boyd and her husband, David, and Karl Runft; her daughter, Dona Walters and husband Ted and their children, John Walters and his daughters, Jennifer and Hillary, Nathan Walters and his wife Brenda, and Allison Walters and her husband Erin Todd Hansen; the many members of her beloved Karp and Oliver families; and many nieces, and nephews and their children and grandchildren.
Letters describing events or thoughts relating to Arrena would be very much appreciated. Please address the letters to John L. Runft, 1467 Rimrock Court, Boise, ID 83712.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, April 28, 2003
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor