Tragic SAP house fire takes life of Sylvia Ruud

By Mary Mergenthal

Very early in the morning of Feb. 8, a house on the 2200 block of Buford Avenue in St. Anthony Park caught fire, killing longtime Park resident Sylvia Ruud.

Ruud’s husband, Tom Ruud, was unable to get his wife out of the home. A neighbor heard him calling for help and called 911 about 11:45 p.m. Police arrived just before midnight.

Officers were unable to get inside the house due to heavy smoke and heat. Firefighters and other emergency responders arrived quickly, but Mrs. Ruud had already succumbed.

Investigators said they didn’t find any working smoke detectors near where the fire started. They believe smoking was the cause of the fire.

Tom Ruud was taken to Regions Hospital with severe burns on his hands, sustained as he tried to get his wife out of the house.

Sylvia Christine (Lee) Ruud, 79, was born Sept. 11, 1944, at Midway Hospital in St. Paul. She grew up in Alaska, California and Brazil, the oldest of five children to Otis and Kathryn Lee.

She attended California Lutheran University, Augsburg University, the University of Minnesota and Luther Seminary. She married Tom Ruud and they moved into their home on Buford Avenue in the early 1980s.

Before retirement, Sylvia had been managing editor of Word and World, a theological journal at Luther Seminary, for more than 25 years. She was also production editor for the journal Dialog for eight years and did private editing as well.

Sylvia was highly intelligent and an avid reader dating back to when she was a 5-year-old. She had hundreds of books and generously loaned them out, encouraging others to read. She was a gourmet cook, who loved reading cook books as well.

She had a strong interest in languages and studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Italian, Portuguese and many others on her own and with a group of friends.

Throughout her life, Sylvia also studied various philosophies, religions and psychologies and considered herself a Buddhist. She was very creative and artistic in a variety of ways starting at a young age. Her siblings were amazed at her drawings and other art, like the clothes she made for her Ginny doll and castles made from brown paper.

Later, Sylvia was talented at creating miniatures and her finely detailed pen and ink drawings were seen in a several publications. Cards of her drawings of landmarks in St. Anthony Park and St. Paul were sold at the former Bibelot.

Mrs. Ruud was a generous and kind introvert. She loved living across from Murray Middle School, as she enjoyed seeing Murray students coming and going.

She loved animals. She had a cat early on and then numerous dogs. Beagles Doug and Annie died by her side in the fire.

She is survived by her husband, poet and author Tom Ruud; sisters, Becky (Paul) Hirdman, St. Anthony Park; Elizabeth Lee, Ellensburg, Washington; and Solveig Lee, Whitby Island, Washington. She is also survived by nephew Colin (Trae) Hirdman; and niece Kara Hirdman. 

Mary Mergenthal is a former editor of the Bugle and is currently the newspaper’s obituary editor.

Photo Credit: St. Anthony Park resident Sylvia Ruud lost her life in a Feb. 8 home fire. Submitted photo.


Remembering Sylvia Ruud

By Fred Gaiser

Sylvia Ruud was the most overqualified person for a job that I have ever known.

Not only did she do an excellent job of carrying out the day-by-day affairs of the Word & World office (at Luther Seminary), but as managing editor, she proofread every article and could correct your Greek, Hebrew and English grammar.

Sylvia never missed a typo or deadline, and on top of all that, she could read Italian.

Sylvia and I worked side-by side for a quarter of a century, and it was never anything but a pleasure.

Fred Gaiser is a former Luther Seminary professor and was a long-time colleague of Sylvia Ruud at the seminary. Sylvia perished in early February in a fire at her St. Anthony Park house.

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