Ruth Boese knows about the twists and turns life can take. And through the art of quilling, or paper-rolling, she demonstrates the interpretation of those twists and turns can result in a beautiful masterpiece.


Ruth Boese knows about the twists and turns life can take. And through the art of quilling, or paper-rolling, she demonstrates the interpretation of those twists and turns can result in a beautiful masterpiece.

Now a resident in assisted living at Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton, she recently took up the art form again after a 30-year hiatus. She and her daughter became quillers after taking a class together many years ago. They enjoyed learning to make coils by wrapping paper strips around a quill, then shaping and gluing them into place to form a picture.

Back then, Ruth was grieving the loss of her first and second husbands who died at a young age, and the death of a friend who was murdered. Ruth decided a challenging quilling project might be an outlet for her grief.

“It was a very hot summer, too hot to garden,” Ruth said. “I wanted to use my time to create something that would be really interesting.”

The resulting artwork hangs in her living room at Kidron Bethel. It is a collection of beautifully intricate, nature-inspired items on a spring-green background under curved glass. The work is surrounded by a vintage oval wooden frame that once held a photo of Ruth’s grandparents.

“This is filled with the symbols of my life,” Ruth says of the artwork. “You have to have a vision. Then, the work evolves. The feelings come to you, and you decide what you’re going to use in your picture.”

A white Edelweiss flower near the center bottom represents Ruth as a widow, its stem and leaves green with life but seemingly overwhelmed by the larger flowers and wheat overhead. “Edelweiss” was a favorite song of her first husband, Ernie Mueller, who was from the Swiss area of Germany. Married 21 years, he and Ruth operated a dairy and farmed in the Halstead-Newton area. Ernie loved the song “Edelweiss” so much he asked to hear it played just before he died of cancer.

Ruth later married Paul Boese and they operated the Newton Dairy Queen before his death from a heart attack in 1976. They were married seven years.

Ernie is represented in the quilling work by the large, center stalk of wheat, and Paul by the wheat at the top right. The center bottom wheat stalk symbolizes her friend who was murdered.

“Whatever happens in our lives, God can use these things to teach us,” Ruth said, “especially during hard times when there are things we don’t understand. Then, we try to work it into something beautiful.”

A tiny butterfly in the upper left corner reminds Ruth of the beauty of children. Blue flowers flanking each side of the quilling represent her son and three daughters. Nearby is a singing bird, a tribute to the musical talents of her children.

And the tiny black worm crawling on a stem in the lower part of the picture? “Oh, that reminds me of a friend who didn’t turn out to be a very good one,” Ruth says with a laugh.

Tiny hearts quilled in white surround the inner edge of the oval frame. “Those hearts are just the world,” Ruth explains. “All your friends and relatives are in your circle, and you’re in part of it.”

Ruth’s circle recently expanded to include a young friend, Kyndal, who is interested in quilling. Ruth encourages the 9-year-old to draw “just what her imagination is telling her.” Kyndal enjoys Ruth’s lessons about quilling — and life.

“That Edelweiss reminds me I’m still alive and still vibrant,” Ruth said, pointing again to her quilling masterpiece on the wall. “I am not a victim, not trapped. I have choices to make every day, and I am free.”

Ruth Boese enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles in the Assisted Living common room at Kidron Bethel Village. Courtesy photos Ruth Boese’s quilling masterpiece features the symbols of her life. Ruth Boese completed a quilled Christmas tree card.