Ruth Stricker

Ruth Stricker, the founder of The Marsh, died on April 14.

DEEPHAVEN — Ruth Stricker, the founder of The Marsh, a center for balance and fitness in Minnetonka, died on Tuesday, April 14. She was 85.

Stricker, of Deephaven, founded The Marsh, 15000 Minnetonka Blvd., in 1985, opening with an acupuncturist and cardiologist working side by side, which was unheard of at the time, a news release from The Marsh said.

“Words can barely describe what it was like to work for Ruth. For me and many others at The Marsh, to witness her create, nurture and challenge our work for 35 years was an extraordinary experience,” Tim Mortenson, general manager of The Marsh, said in a statement to the paper. “She was hands-on and heart-in the mission every day. Ruth is the vision and the author of The Marsh, one of many legacy she leaves. Her leadership inspires us to carry The Marsh forward.”

Now in its third decade, The Marsh is known for being a comprehensive center of innovative programming and services.

“I just figured, well, my life is a parallel to so many other people going through the ups and downs, and it wasn’t to compete with anyone, but the focus right away was that it would be a combination, to stimulate and bring solitude at the same time,” Stricker told Lakeshore Weekly News in 2015. “So we have active-passive places, I was one of the first to break away from the model of an aerobics floor in the center, machines in the corners and a running track around that. Everyone could see everyone else and what they were doing, so I separated every activity because we’re here for ourselves only.”

Stricker, a daughter of a Presbyterian minister, was born on March 12, 1935. She grew up in rural Cottonwood County, Minnesota, and graduated from Macalester College in the 1950s with a double major in physical education and religion, which laid the foundation for her life’s work.

She began her career as a health education and youth camp director, before switching gears to become an entrepreneur, the release said. She taught and developed classes at Williston Fitness Center in Minnetonka and opened a studio in St. Paul, according to a 2015 Lakeshore Weekly News article.

She began studying mind-body interactions associated with exercise and cognitive components, traveling extensively throughout Europe and Asia, learning about other cultures’ approaches to health and wellness.

After being diagnosed with Lupus, she used the disease to spread the message that she is “a well person in a diseased body,” the release said. She believed “health and fitness are not the chief goal in life but rather the potential to be good citizens of the earth.”

Her focus on mindful exercise and wellbeing continued after her diagnosis, leading to the creation of The Marsh.

In Stricker’s words, “The resiliency of the human spirit makes it possible for us to find a sense of wellbeing in our lives ... that our challenge is to be emotionally resilient and physically healthy to handle change and stress,” the release said.

Stricker left her legacy with The Marsh, and many other organizations, receiving honors and awards for her life’s work.

Some of her accomplishments include helping establish a wellness center for people with chronic conditions in the former Soviet Union; funding a three-year research project at the Beijing Institute of Technology to study Qigong and Tai Chi as it relates to general health and recovery for cancer patients; working with Duke University and the Mayo Clinic to help advance its work in integrative medicine; funding the production of several independent short films that seek to inspire and uplift; and being among of the founders of the University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing — the first university in the U.S. to fully integrate complementary principles and practices into the schools of medicine and public health — where she also sponsored an annual mind-body lecture series for 27 years, the release said.

Stricker also dedicated time and resources to other organizations, including the International Spa Association, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, among others, the release said.

She was proceeded in death by her husband, Bruce Dayton, and her parents, Eleanor and Peter DeBeer. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Kim and Bob Griffin, her grandchildren, Grace and Jack, her son, Mark Stricker, her brother and sister-in-law Paul and Kathleen DeBeer, former spouse David Stricker, and her yellow lab, Beau.

A gathering to celebrate Stricker’s life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to make a donation on Stricker’s behalf to Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners or the Lupus Foundation of America.

Melissa Turtinen is the community editor for Lakeshore Weekly News and Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about adding context to stories and informing people about what's going on in their community. She enjoys being outside, traveling and good beer.

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