Ruth Kamphoefner had good reason to despair when her husband died in 1964. She had five kids to feed and income from a Social Security check and a part-time job as an art teacher. But she fought back and in 1970 bought a shell of a house in a run-down neighborhood called Lafayette Square. Her neighbors included some nice ladies who turned out to be prostitutes. She fixed up the home and kept on fixing up homes in Lafayette Square. By the time she published a book about her experiences, Lafayette Comes Back.
When I interviewed her in 2001 for the South Side Journal in 2001, this leader of Lafayette Square’s comeback impressed me as someone who won’t give up. I had to have her in my first book, Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side. What a woman.
I was saddened, therefore, to hear of Ruth’s recent death at the age of 90. Her memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard. A reception at 9th Street Abbey will follow. Those who attend surely will say much about her fighting spirit.