RuthAnn K. Gatto
December 27, 1932 — June 26, 2020
RuthAnn Kantzer Gatto, 87, died Friday, June 26 at her home in Greenbank from natural causes. RuthAnn was born to Bula B. and Maurice G. Kantzer Dec. 27, 1932, joining her older sister Donna. The early years of their upbringing were spent in Arkansas City, Kan., where their grandfather owned the Kantzer Planning Mill. At the time of World War II, the Kantzer family moved west to Seattle, settling in the Beacon Hill area around 1945. RuthAnn graduated from Cleveland High School in June 1950, and she married Norman Pilgrim in October. They had three children: Maurice (Scooter), Laura Jean, and Paula JoAnn. That marriage ended in 1958.
In 1959 RuthAnn married James Gatto, and son Steven joined the family in July, followed by Anthony in April, 1961, to round out the family of seven. The Gatto family made their home in South Seattle beginning in 1962. The Gattos were not done growing; in 1979 cousin Kelly joined the family. Many summers were spent camping, hiking, and fishing. They bought property at Cascade River Park near Marblemount. Two cabins were built over the years, the Diamond K and the Doll House. Jim and RuthAnn would spend his vacation time there. Working on the property, fishing, hiking and campfires were a family affair, and the source of many happy memories.
RuthAnn was active in the Campfire Girls Organization and served as group leader for daughter Paula and other neighborhood girls. As a mentor, she provided many craft projects and service activities to work on. RuthAnn also volunteered for the American Cancer Society, raising funds in the neighborhood for cancer research.
After all the kids were on their own, RuthAnn and Jim moved to their property in Greenbank on Whidbey Island. Weekends were spent reclaiming the property from the salmonberries and blackberries. First, there was room for a single wide trailer, then came the barn with loft, and finally the house, designed by son Anthony, which she called home until her passing. The “Farm,” as the family would know it, was off and on home to a horse, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, peacocks and a goose named Buckwheat – not Mom’s favorite. Several summers were spent in Westport, where RuthAnn worked in her daughter Laura’s charter office while she took Dad out fishing on the “Blue Eyes.”
RuthAnn loved to sew. Around the holidays she could often be found at a craft bazaar somewhere between Whidbey Island and Tokeland selling her lovingly made pillows and table ware, usually joined by one or two of her kids or grandkids. She eventually started a business called Calendar Crafts, selling items she made for every holiday. RuthAnn was an avid Seahawks fan, and a season ticket holder beginning with the Zorn/Largent era. She even caught a football in the stands at one game!
RuthAnn loved gardening and enjoyed planting flowers wherever she lived. She worked. at Bell-R Greenhouse in Burien for several years. She also loved dogs and they loved her back. She was the Hummingbird Queen! She collected them in all shapes and sizes, making hummingbirds an easy choice for Christmas, birthday, and Mother’s Day gifts. Hummingbird feeders always hung around the porch, and she would save the ones that did not survive the window strikes.
Mostly, RuthAnn loved her family. She was always supportive of her children’s different endeavors. She had many neighborhood kids who also called her Mom. For the grandkids, it was a rite of passage when, somewhere between age 9 and 11, they would surpass her 4’8” stature, celebrating the fact that they were taller than Grammy.
RuthAnn was preceded in death by her parents; granddaughter, Destini LeVan (1999); and her husband of 53 years, Jim Gatto (2013). She is survived by her children Maurice Pilgrim, Laura Pilgrim Rust (Randy), Paula Pilgrim Swanson (Phil), Steve Gatto (Debi), Anthony Gatto, and Kelly Larson Polus (John); grandchildren Jeremy (Jen), Steve, Levi (Michelle), Elysia, Ryan (Lissa), Madalynne (Sterling), KatieAnn, Doug and Luke; great-grandchildren Taylor, Riley, Andrew, Leah, Levi, Lacey, Lanae, Liam, Tegan, Grady and Ronan; sister Donna Miles; her brothers-in-law Frank (Diane) Gatto, and Johnny Gatto; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins from the Kantzer, Pilgrim, and Gatto branches of the family tree.
Arrangements were entrusted Wallin Funeral Home of Oak Harbor. You may visit www.wallinfuneralhome.com to leave memories and condolences for the family. A Celebration of Life gathering was held at the family farm in Greenbank.