Africa memorial planned in memory of Scots teacher

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THE family of a Scottish teacher who died while hiking in the United States is to build a school classroom in her memory in ­Africa.

Ruth Ross, 57, fell ill in extreme heat while on a hiking trip in Palm Springs, California, with her 60-year-old husband Chris. The couple, from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, were on the first day of their holiday.

The body of Mrs Ross, a home economics teacher who was deputy head at Airdrie Academy, is expected to be flown home in a few days and her funeral will be held next week.

The mother-of-three’s family have already put in place plans for a lasting memorial to the popular teacher.

Mrs Ross’ parents were the founders of the Vision Africa charity, which helps poor and disadvantaged children in Kenya. Her daughter Deborah Kimathi, 34, helps runs the charity and the family are now spearheading a campaign to have a classroom built in honour of Mrs Ross.

Mourners at her funeral will be asked for donations towards the classroom instead of flowers.

Her husband Chris said: “We are looking to be able to provide some sort of fitting memorial to Ruth’s life and, much as she loved flowers, we thought it would be more precious to see people’s love and generosity reflected in something more ­lasting.

“Ruth was deeply involved with Vision Africa, the charity for which Debs is field director in Kenya, and the charity is currently planning to relocate and expand its main base in Nairobi.

“Part of this process would be to build new and better classrooms for our Seed of Hope operations, one of which would be for fashion and textiles. Ruth’s roots were as a home economics teacher.

“We know Ruth would be delighted if people would, in lieu of sending flowers to the funeral, donate to this fund so that such a classroom could be used to improve the lives of destitute young people in Kenya now and into the future.

“This would be close to Ruth’s heart, and thus to mine as well.”

The couple set off at about 7:30am last Monday on the South Lykken Trail. Mr Ross called emergency services less than three hours later when they were too exhausted to walk any further.

He reported that they were low on water, suffering from dehydration and that his wife was unconscious. A helicopter airlifted Mrs Ross to hospital but she died after arrival.

Mr Ross had earlier paid tribute to his wife and said he had lost his “soul mate”.

Mr Ross said: “I have lost my loving, wonderful, funny, brilliant wife – the most wonderful person in my life. I cannot fully take this in yet.

“Ruth has not only been a wonderful wife, friend and soulmate to me, but the most incredible mother to our kids and grandma to five lovely grandchildren.”

The temperature in the area where the couple were hiking at about 10am was 98F, according to the US’s National Weather Service. It rose to 101F by 11am.

Mrs Ross’ death prompted the Palm Springs police force to issue a warning to hikers setting out in high temperatures.

Bob Dowty, the chairman of Vision Africa, said donations “will be greatly appreciated and will make a practical and visible legacy with which to remember Ruth’s passion for our work”.

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