Biruta “Ruta” Grasis, born in Liepaja, Latvia, took her last breath Wednesday, December 7th, 2022. She celebrated her 97th birthday on August 24th, and left us peacefully after succumbing to congestive heart failure. Our “Nani” was an incredible woman who lived a full life. She will be remembered for her natural jocularity, fiery candor, and immense generosity for those things she cared for most.
Ruta’s tenacity was no doubt built and tested during WWII when she and her mother narrowly avoided capture by Russian Communist soldiers in their takeover of her Latvian homeland. Her father and many other influential Latvians were not as lucky, and were sent to the frozen forced labor camps of Siberia, never to be heard from again. This tragedy shaped Ruta’s character and the way she approached life, giving her an unwavering appreciation of the freedoms afforded in the United States. Shortly after the war she met the love of her life, August Grasis in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany where they conspired to immigrate to the United States and begin their life together. She paved the way for August by working as a housekeeper in Greenwich CT until he could finish college in post-war Germany and join her here. She referred to August as The Head of our family, where Nani proudly served the ever-imperative role as The Neck.
Moving to Kansas City from Chicago in 1964, they chose Weatherby Lake as their lifelong home. She and August travelled extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and in recent years split her time evenly between the beach at South Padre, Texas and the mountains of Vail, Colorado. Nani was forever “with it,” staying up to date on Facebook, measuring her vitals with her iWatch, or staying in touch with her family and friends on her iPhone. An expert in Sudoku, a wizard at Hearts and a master at predicting the ending of every Hallmark Movie were just few of the things that kept her mind sharp to the end. We will remember her as the consummate hostess and entertainer, her witty levity, her empathetic and accepting nature, and her friendly and welcoming manner.
She left us with indelible life lessons including: The significant balance between humility and elegance, the foundation of tenacity and perseverance, and the importance of treating others with love and grace, as well as an April Fools’ prank delivered perfectly. Nani never took herself too seriously, but reminded us subtly how serious life can be. “She was truly an exceptional person and a role model for how to live life fully and age gracefully. The last of an era.”
Ruta will be welcomed into eternity by her husband of 62 years, August Grasis II who passed in 2012. Three generations of admiring family will forever celebrate her, including her three children, Mara Garton, August (Augie) Grasis III and Nora Kristina Grasis-Jenkins; ten grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren, including Shannon Eckdahl, Ryan Sutton, Bentley Garton, Aspen Woolery, Lindsay Hatcher, Lara Golos, Madison Garton, Gordy Jenkins, Emerson Jenkins and Augi Helling, their loving spouses and exceptional children.
A celebration of life will be held on December 17, 2022 at 130pm at the Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel of Park University, 8701 NW River Park Dr, Parkville MO 64152.
In lieu of flowers, Ruta would appreciate your generosity toward the HELD foundation, a charity established by August and Ruta to provide aid to elderly and scholarships to students in their beloved Latvia. (HELD—Ruta Grasis Memorial, 9404 NW 80 Ter, Weatherby Lake, MO 64152)