Ruth E. Autio Harju, 82

Ruth E. Autio Harju, 82, died Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, at the Bridgton Health Care Center in Bridgton.

She was born Aug. 5, 1931, in South Paris, 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 Sept., 1949, she married Aarne I. Harju of Harrison.

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 N.H., with a degree in Colonial American History and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa by the Beta Chapter of N.H. She went on to earn her master's degree in History, also from the University of N.H.

Mrs. Harju loved reading and had a large library of books on every subject imaginable, including foreign languages, philosophy, history, science, fairy tales and the classics, and she generously shared her books with anyone who had a common interest.

She loved telling stories to her children and grandchildren: Bible stories and stories of magic, tales of mischievous imps, fantastical beings, wondrous places, stories about strong women and the family. These stories followed her children and grandchildren into adulthood and stayed with them.

For many years, Mrs. Harju collected dolls; she was an avid button collector and was a member of the Maine State Button Society. She also loved music and enjoyed singing and playing her Finnish lap-harp (kantele).

She enjoyed traveling. In 1990, she visited Japan as part of a Travel for Academic Growth program at Goddard University in Vermont and she made two additional trips to that country. She visited Canada, New Orleans and made a cross-country trip through the United States.

One of her passions was cooking, and she was an excellent cook. While her family will never forget her special celebration of Plato's birthday, the medieval dinner she hosted, or her Japanese tea ceremony, they will especially miss her Thanksgiving pies, and the baked beans and other everyday foods she always prepared for family get-togethers.

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 Jr. High School and Stevens Brook Elementary School.

She is survived by her children: Ronna Harju of Silver Lake, Washington, 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. Online condolences may be shared with her family at www.chandlerfunerals.com

Calling hours will be held at Chandler Funeral Homes & Cremation Service, 8 Elm St. in Bridgton, on Friday, Jan. 24th from 4–6 p.m. and 7–9 p.m. The funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25th at Pleasant Mountain Presbyterian Church, located next to the Bridgton town hall. In case of bad weather, the service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26th at 2 p.m. Burial will be at 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 Street

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