July 19, 1928 – July 16, 2023
Doris Cathryn Unruh was born in Bakersfield on July 19, 1928, and died peacefully on July 16, 2023, with several family members by her side.
Her parents, Cornelius Peter (C.P.) Eitzen and Mary (Harder) Eitzen, were married after losing previous spouses. The family, including two brothers and a sister, lived in rural eastern Bakersfield, where her father built a home and several poultry barns. During the Depression years, she enjoyed a secure family life with large gardens, chickens, eggs. and a milking cow. Her mother, an accomplished seamstress, made most of her clothing. The family attended the Bakersfield Mennonite Brethren Church, where Doris accepted the Lord, was baptized and became a member.
Doris enjoyed school, but her primary interest was music. She began piano lessons at an early age and became very proficient. Attending East Bakersfield High School, she accompanied several school choral groups, and she also played for church activities. She also enjoyed freedoms and learned responsibilities, including riding the city bus downtown to her job at a lunch counter or an afternoon of fun with her cousin.
During her senior year of high school, she began to date Elmer Unruh, who had recently completed his military service. They were married in August of 1946, and first lived in a residence located south of Minter Army Air Field. They moved to Wasco to a residence adjacent to the Maple Leaf Company's cotton gin. In 1952, they purchased a residence in Shafter on Mannel Avenue. The family now included three children and they enjoyed the friendships in a neighborhood without fences.
In 1961, the family moved to the residence on Pine Street, and a fourth child was born. This home remained the center of family activity for many years including 23 years Doris lived alone after Elmer unexpectedly passed in 1995.
Doris enjoyed many diverse activities during her lifetime. In the early years of marriage, these included making pork cracklings with wives of other Maple Leaf employees, which were frozen and later greatly enjoyed for breakfast by the family. Doris continued to play the piano and the organ and accompanied the choir and other choral groups at the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church. She also played for numerous weddings and memorial services.
Doris began working outside the home in 1959, beginning an approximately 34-year career with the Richland School District. She began as a library assistant and soon became the secretary to the principal for the junior high school. She worked many extra hours to meet task deadlines related to class schedules and grade reports. She became acquainted with countless students and enjoyed their greetings even years later.
Upon retiring in June 1993, Doris and Elmer enjoyed a cross-country road trip with close friends. They particularly enjoyed Branson, Mo., on their way to North Carolina. After Elmer's passing, she continued driving to visit family and friends. Doris also continued her participation in the Bakersfield Masterworks Chorale, singing in many concerts over a period of 25 years, and supervising the volunteer ushers for Bakersfield Symphony concerts.
As Doris became older, she suffered several injurious falls and illnesses but always recuperated. Shortly after her 90th birthday she experienced a fall requiring hospitalization with a broken pelvis. She loved her home and garden but knew it was time for change and moved to Carrington, which became her home for almost five years. She never complained and always enjoyed visits from family and friends. She continued her lifelong enjoyment of reading, listening to music and watching Dodger baseball. She considered the staff at Carrington to be her dear friends and they in turn treated her with great kindness. The family will be forever grateful for their efforts.
Doris was in the presence of several family members when she passed away to be with her Lord on the evening of July 16, 2023. She was predeceased by her husband, Elmer; her daughter, Shirley Carlton; and her grandson, Jerry Unruh. She is survived by son Darrell Unruh and spouse Karen, son Sid Unruh and spouse Marcy, and son Ron Unruh and spouse Malise. She is also survived by seven grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren to whom she was "Gigi."
A memorial service and celebration of life will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, at the Shafter Mennonite Brethren Church.