Bridgton, Maine — Ruth E. Autio Harju, 82, died on Saturday, January 18, 2014, at the Bridgton Health Care Center in Bridgton, Maine.
She was born on August 5, 1931, in South Paris, Maine, and was the daughter of Pastor George (Yrjö) and Tynne (Himottu) Autio. Much of her early childhood was spent in Wisconsin, but she returned to Maine to graduate as valedictorian from Bridgton Academy in June 1949. In September 1949, she married Aarne I. Harju of Harrison, Maine.
Mrs. Harju was an active Girl Scout leader, taught Sunday School for many years, and served on various church committees. She was a member of the Pleasant Mountain Presbyterian Church in Bridgton.
In 1969, she graduated cum laude from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Colonial American History, and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa by the Beta Chapter of New Hampshire. She went on to earn her masters degree in history, also from the University of New Hampshire.
She enjoyed traveling. One of her passions was cooking, and she was an excellent cook.
In spite of her active life, Mrs. Harju always had time for her family. No one who needed help was ever turned away, and friends and family were always welcome in her home.
She retired from the Bridgton School System after teaching at Bridgton Junior High School and Stevens Brook Elementary School.
She is survived by her children, Ronna Harju of Silver Lake, Wash., Lani K. Thompson of Bridgton, Carol Renouf and her husband, David, of East Hampstead, N.H., Janet Rodgers and her husband, Glen, of Londonderry, N.H., Barbara Danis and her husband, Dick, of Bridgton, Bill Dickson and his wife, Marlene, of Maynard, Mass., Philip Harju and his wife, Mary, of Bridgton, and John Harju and his wife, Ichiko, of Nottingham, N.H.; 16 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; one brother, Martin Autio of Springhill, Fla.; a sister-in-law, Barbara Autio of Bridgton; and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by a son, Martin Harju, who died in 1996; and her ex-husband, Aarne, with whom she remained close friends.
ARRANGEMENTS: Calling hours will be held at Chandler Funeral Homes & Cremation Service, 8 Elm St., Bridgton, on Friday, January 24, from 4 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral service will be held 10:30 a.m., on Saturday, January 25, at Pleasant Mountain Presbyterian Church, located next to Bridgton Town Hall. In case of bad weather, the service will be held on Sunday, January 26, at 2 pm. Burial will be in Harrison Lutheran Cemetery in the spring. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Bridgton Literacy Task Force, 9 Pleasant St., Bridgton, ME 04009, or Pleasant Mountain Presbyterian Church, 30 N. High St., Route 302, Bridgton, ME 04009.
Condolences may be shared with her family at www.chandlerfunerals.com.