Ruthanne Cecil: ‘Honored Elder’ and ‘Much Loved Friend’

This section includes both obituaries and memories. Honoring our loved ones who have died does not end immediately after their passing. We recognize that… so we’re extending our obituary section to include individuals who may have left a long time ago. If you want to remember someone who is gone, either recently or longer ago, please send a photo and a few sentences to 

A memorial will be announced at a later date.

Ruthanne CecilRuthanne Cecil passed away unexpectedly at her home in Arcata, California on February 13th, 2018. She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 15th, 1945 to Lester and Ruth Josephs, joining her older sister, Beverly. She is survived by her son, Donovan Cecil (Annie); Donovan’s ex-wife, Alicia Renata; grandsons, AJ Mcreynolds and Devon Cecil (Amorette), as well as her sister, Beverly Galvan, of Portland, OR. Also grieving her loss are her dear friends Cynthia Packard, Nathan Muus, and Lillian Hoika.

She met Vayne Cecil when she was in college at Wheaton, Chicago, in 1965. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area together, where they had their son, Donovan, in 1967. They separated around 1973, although she always spoke of him with love and affection. Vayne passed away in 1999.

She came to Humboldt County in 1974, fell in love with the area, as so many did, and bought property in Ettersburg. She was very proud of having built her cabin while trying to go back and forth from the Bay Area, settling here permanently in 1976. She was a very active member of the community, serving in many organizations over the years. She was a founding member of EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center), worked on the Redwood National Park Trails project with RCDC (Redwood Community Development Council), and published a newspaper (the Country Activist). She also served  as Executive Director of CEED (the Center for Environmental Economic Development), and helped with many other groups that protected our local environment.

She earned a law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 1997, where Janet Reno gave the Commencement Speech. She wrote her Doctoral Thesis on Global Income Inequality, and, as a result of this, gave a talk at the United Nations on that topic. Most recently, she served on the Arcata Council Energy Commission.

Always interested in her roots, she joined several groups relating to her Finnish/Saami heritage and traveled to Finland and Sweden to explore the history of our family and culture.  One of her major projects was researching the history and genealogy of the members of the Alaskan Saami Reindeer project. Ruthanne attended many North American Saami events where she was a “valued and much loved friend with her quick wit and extensive knowledge.” She felt privileged to be an “Honored Elder” and deeply valued her friends and colleagues.

The family would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support we have received. She affected so many people’s lives and was an inspiration to many, although she would never have described herself as such. She was a humble, self-effacing woman who valued her independence, and lived her life in accordance with the values she espoused. She was very much loved by her family and will be greatly missed.

If you would like to honor Ruthanne, please consider donating to the Sami Cultural Center of North America. There is also a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral expenses.
Or any local charity or group of your choice. Also be informed and vote!



  • I honor Ruthanne. I remember her mainly from her activism for EPIC, and for the KMUD show she founded, ‘Politically Correct Week In Review’ with Paul Encimer (that he still hosts) and one other man who’s name escapes me. She was a STRONG woman, a leader, an articulate person could not be dismissed or ignored. A great role model for women, and one that men (I) learned from, and respected.
    Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of the less powerful, Ruthanne! Bless you!

  • sharon and Michael

    Ruthanne was amazing. I have fond memories of Ruthanne and Bob pasting the Country Activist in our living room. She was a hella smart woman and will be missed.
    love from, Sharon and Michael Fennell
    Manila, Ca.

  • unbridled phillistine

    Sad to see such a positive activist pass. Times really getting away on us..My thoughts and prayers to friends and family..Was a nice obituary.

  • I was blessed to work with her at RCDC and the Watershed program there. She was very articulate and organized and had a witty and very rye sense of humor. She saw the good in all the folks we worked with and the potential waiting to be discovered. May she rest in peace and her family find comfort as they mourn her loss.

  • Sorry to hear she went so young, but I enjoyed reading the obituary. I learned something new about the world that will stick with me for the rest of my life – “the Sami people”. I never knew about this! Very interesting! Family must feel honored and proud to have had her be a part of their lives.

  • The tears run down my cheeks. And, yet, I was so far toward the rear of such a long and wide column of warriors marching to the beat She felt.

  • I am so sad to lose such a gentle, strong and loyal friend who spent her life engaged in fighting for the downtrodden, the environment, and equality. Ruthanne was my dear friend, and we enjoyed many adventures together in early days in Berkeley and later years in Humboldt County. I admired, respected and loved her. The earth has lost a devoted daughter.

  • Rest in Peace.

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