Ruth Hustad, a longtime business leader and Eden Prairie resident, is remembered for breaking down barriers for women seeking to balance their careers and family life.
Hustad passed away last month at the age of 89.
Kelli Hueler, Ruth’s daughter, stated that her mother was ahead of her time in balancing family and business. Later in her life, the sight of young women effectively managing both motherhood and their careers brought her happiness, according to Kelli.
“I think most women who knew her consider her a trailblazer because she didn’t have people like that herself to look up to [when she was starting out in business]. She had to make her own way,” Kelli said. “A lot of us in our 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s can look to her and have a role model.”
Kelli Hueler spoke fondly of Ruth’s impact on Eden Prairie’s growth. With her late husband, Wally, who passed away in 2007, Ruth was instrumental in developing hundreds of acres in the community.
Ruth’s impact extended beyond her real estate development work, as she made significant contributions to organizations and causes in Eden Prairie and beyond. She served as the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce president and was a trustee on the Fairview Southdale Hospital Board of Directors for 20 years.
“She and Dad had a real passion for Eden Prairie and what it could be, with vision and commitment, and they shared that,” Kelli said. “Mom never lost that, no matter her age, though she wasn’t as active anymore. She was certainly a believer in the community, which was a big part of their life.”
Real estate partnership
Kelli referred to her parents as “a dynamic duo” who worked in close partnership as a “true partnership team” in the real estate development business they established in 1974.
Wally Jr., their son, said his father was responsible for developing properties while his mother handled the sales of the lots and houses.
“It was a combination,” he said. “They couldn’t have done it without each other, but they each had their own unique talents.”
Ruth and Wally Sr. moved to Eden Prairie in 1968 and went on to develop several communities in the area, including Creek Knolls, Rivers Landing, Riley Creek Ridge, Deerfield, Mill Creek, Creekwood, Pioneer Point, Village Knolls, and Prairie East.
Kelli said her parents donated land, including creek ravines and parks, to the city, leading to the establishment of Franlo Park, Homeward Hills Park, and a portion of the Purgatory Creek Preserve.
“They were big believers in open space and parks and community and the community being able to benefit from all the beauty within it,” Kelli said.
Wally Jr. said his mother started her real estate business from a farmhouse on Bluff Road when the area was still predominantly rural. She successfully ran the Hustad Real Estate brokerage in Eden Prairie for more than 50 years.
“I remember all the kids were taught how to answer the phone with proper phone etiquette because she had her business operating from the house,” he said.
Kelli and Wally Jr. describe Ruth as a go-getter who enjoyed the variety of people she encountered in the real estate business. Kelli praised her mother’s determination and warm personality, stating she “loved people” but also “liked to get things done.”
“Not everybody’s blessed with that, and she was very determined to see things through and get things done, but she enjoyed the variety of people that come together to make things happen,” Kelli said. “That was part of who she was, for sure.”
Wally Jr. partly attributes this to her father, a farmer with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, who encouraged her not to let her gender hold her back.
“She had a vibrant personality and was always highly sociable,” Wally said. “My dad encouraged her as well. He had a positive impact on all of my sisters, I have three sisters and they are all capable women. My mother was a great example of someone who loved both her work and people. Her skills were well-suited for the real estate business, which is a people business.”
Longtime Eden Prairie resident Dean Edstrom, who served on the city council in the 1980s, remembered Ruth and Wally as the most active early developers of residential properties in the city, particularly in its southeast and bluffs areas.
According to Edstrom, they often presented well-planned development projects to the city council.
He also noted that Ruth was one of the original board members and secretary of the Eden Prairie Foundation (now known as the Eden Prairie Community Foundation) when it was established in 1981. She remained a steadfast supporter of the foundation throughout the years.
“She was a warm and generous person and a builder of Eden Prairie in every sense of the word,” Edstrom said.
As Ruth approached the later stages of her life, Wally Jr. noticed a significant change in her outlook on relationships. The once-dynamic business entrepreneur shifted her focus to the importance of friendship and made an effort to reconnect with old friends.
“She had a remarkable life, but the experience of rekindling old friendships in the last three years was probably the most meaningful thing to her,” Wally Jr. said.
Kelli and Wally Jr. mentioned that Ruth was a dedicated member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, where she participated in quilting, Bible study, and choir singing.
“She absolutely loved the quilting classes,” Wally Jr. said. “They make quilts for people that need warm blankets and she loved choir. [The church became such a] central part of her life.”
Wally Jr. emphasized the positive impact of the quilting class on Ruth’s life.
“As you get older, there aren’t as many phone calls, there’s not as much to do, and the things that you thought were so meaningful at one point in your life don’t carry that same meaning,” he said. “It’s really the connection that you have with people. That was really at the soul of her being, that connection with people.”
‘A great legacy’
In her final year, Kelli would take Ruth on leisurely drives around the community, stopping at favorite spots like Marshall’s Farm Market.
“She enjoyed the people within the community so much,” she said. “Even when she didn’t have her health, she always had a smile and was just determined to enjoy the day. So when we would go out and drive around and look at the [fall]colors and go to Marshall’s, she still enjoyed Eden Prairie like it was yesterday.”
After his mother’s passing, Wally Jr. has come to appreciate his parent’s impact on the community.
“You become aware of just how much they contributed to the community,” he said. “I’m hearing so much about it [now]. I had forgotten just how much they gave. I play pickleball on park land that was donated by my parents. It was important to them to give back to the community, and it is a great legacy.”
A celebration of life memorial for Ruth Hustad will take place on April 29 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie.
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