By MICHELLE BROOKS
RUSSELLVILLE - Cutting wood to heat the one-room schoolhouse was as much fun as it was work for the original members of the Stringtown-Corinth 4-H Club.
Ruth Ann Klatt has invested more than 50 years with that club, beginning at age 9 as a member when her late mother Evelyn Loesch was an organizing leader in 1955.
Sewing, cooking, gardening and clothing were part of everyday life in rural Russellville. But Klatt's family valued being involved with the community too.
Before Loesch invested 46 years with 4-H, she belonged to the Cole County garden and sewing clubs. The matriarch was inducted posthumously in 2012 to the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame.
Following once more in her mother's footsteps, Klatt was inducted to the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame this year.
Klatt's daughter Ronda Anderson has volunteered more than 20 years as a leader, in addition to her 11 years as a member.
And Anderson's daughter Megan, 21, was a ten-year member and now organizes the Whiteman Air Force Base 4-H Club for the Johnson County Extension Center with the hopes of becoming a 4-H youth specialist when she graduates.
The family has generations of leadership and service, more than 360 4-H years including all of the local Clarence and Evelyn Loesch descendants.
Klatt stepped into leadership when just a teenager, taking over the sewing project.
But her earliest 4-H memory is riding the club's float in the 1957 Jefferson City Independence Day parade.
From her days as a member, she remembers fondly the countywide Share The Fun skits and preparing projects for the fair.
As a parent and leader, Klatt has enjoyed seeing members progress in their responsibilities and talents.
"It's rewarding to see young 4-Hers grow into responsibility young adults," she said.
Klatt said she also is proud that 4-H programs have evolved as interests have changed through the 20th century.
From the domestic basics of the 1950s, the youth organization now offers challenges like rocket science, horsemanship and clowning. And Clover Kids extends the 4-H experience to early elementary-aged students.
What has remained the same are the values and goals of the 4-H program.
"Youth master skills to make positive career and life choices," Klatt said. "They develop knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for life's challenges."
The six character emphasis are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, kindness and citizenship.
Those are traits she is proud to see in her daughter and son Ryan and their children, she said.
They are among the many things she shares with her husband Ron, too.
Although the couple grew up together, even in the same confirmation class at St. John's Lutheran Church-Stringtown, they discovered their connection when he returned from military duty.
As a simple gesture of appreciation, Klatt wrote to Ron and others deployed with the military from her 1964 Russellville High School senior class. She kept them informed of church and neighborhood news.
"I felt for them, being away from home," she said.
Klatt attributes her organizational abilities and eye on perfection as the result of her upbringing, which includes the 4-H influence.
She has been involved in other community service beyond club and county 4-H activities.
For nearly 20 years she helped organize food and clothing drives and other fundraising efforts for local charities at her workplace through Jefferson City Association of Educational Office Professionals.
Most recently, she plays on the Shooting Stars Granny Basketball team.
"I played basketball in high school, but these rules are totally different," Klatt said. "We do more giggling and having fun.
"You feel good, when you come away from it."