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Kamphoefner, Ruth M.


Ruth M. (nee Mayer) Kamphoefner

 January 6, 1926 – October 26, 2016


Ruth M. Kamphoefner was born to the late Rev. Dr. Herman A. and Anna (nee Hagen) Mayer in International Falls, MN and raised in Bay City MI. She moved to St. Louis in 1946 when her father took a position with Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, where he later served as secretary of LCMS World Missions.

After graduating from Washington University, Ruth began her teaching career at Emmaus Lutheran School in St. Louis and later at Salem Lutheran in Affton. In 1950, she married Edgar O. Kamphoefner, and they were blessed with five children, first adopting Kathleen, and later Ruth gave birth to Carol, James, Mark and Karen. After the death of her husband Edgar in 1964, besides raising her growing family, Ruth worked part-time as an illustrator and graphic artist for Concordia Publishing House and later resumed teaching art, geography and civics at Salem Lutheran.

In 1970, the widowed Ruth moved her family to Lafayette Square. Starting with a shell of a house facing the park, she helped restore 18 houses. Utilizing a strategy of purchasing the worst house on a street, she set in motion the restoration of entire blocks. Ruth authored and published “Lafayette Comes Back” in 2006, a chronicle of the events of that era. She became known as the “Mother of Lafayette Square”, and was featured in a KETC TV documentary on Lafayette Square and at the Missouri History Museum.

Her work in the city was more than just about architecture and buildings. Always noticing those in need around her, Ruth assisted many of the poor and elderly to gain access to healthcare, housing and food. Ruth also worked tirelessly for fair and honest elections in the City of St. Louis and championed for equal access to city services, not just for those who were politically connected.

In her later years, Ruth devoted her community efforts to restoring the grotto and gardens in Lafayette Park. In addition to a plaque in the park honoring her work, she was recognized by the Board of Alderman of the City of St. Louis in 2006. She shared her love of gardening with everyone she met, giving bits of her garden away and always having more to give.  She gardened every piece of bare ground she found around Lafayette Square, including empty lots and alleys, and helped establish several community gardens in Lafayette Square and Soulard.

Ruth was interested in conservation and recycling long before it became popular. This was reflected in her art which often utilized “found” objects or discarded plastic, carpet scraps, tile, slate, stone and burnt wood. She revived old furniture with painted designs and created mosaics from scrap tile and marble. Her artwork was featured at Marbles Studio and Gallery in 2006, and her murals decorated Forest Park Hotel, St. Louis Bread Co., and many private homes. An array of her scorched wood panels on the Passion of Christ has been displayed at Salem Lutheran Church.


Ruth was preceded in death by her husband, Edgar O. Kamphoefner, a sister, Lois Schmidt, and a brother, Rev. James W. Mayer. She is survived by one brother, Rev. Robert F. Mayer, sister-in-law Selma Mayer, brother-in-law Gale Schmidt, her five children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and many dear relatives and friends.

A memorial service is scheduled for November 12, 2016 at 11am, at Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard with a reception to follow at 9th Street Abbey.

Memorial donations are gratefully requested for :

Lafayette Park Conservancy

International Partners in Mission

Trinity Lutheran Foundation Fund





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