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Friends and relatives of Ruth (Hop) Huettl of Roseville say she was born to be a kindergarten teacher.

Huettl, who taught the early elementary grades for nearly 40 years, died of congestive heart failure on Sunday in Roseville.

The longtime resident of Mounds View and teacher in Mounds View schools was 83.

"She had the DNA of a kindergarten teacher," said her niece Jane Hansen of Bloomington, a retired Minneapolis teacher. "She encouraged me to teach."

"Children were the prime focus in her life," said her niece.

Ruth Hoplin grew up in Starbuck, Minn., and graduated from Glenwood High School in 1943.

She attended Augsburg College in Minneapolis and graduated from the old Miss Wood's Kindergarten-Primary Training School in Minneapolis. In 1957, she earned a bachelor's degree from Macalester College in St. Paul.

She began her elementary teaching career in Watertown and North Branch, joining the old Lake Johanna Elementary School of the Mounds View School District in the mid-1950s.

Alana Blomberg, a retired Mounds View teacher who taught with Huettl at the old Ralph R. Reeder Elementary School, said she was "compassionate" and "gentle."

"She believed in every kid and could teach anybody to read," said Blomberg. "She was able to cajole kids into believing that they wanted to do something."

Huettl's compassion went beyond her own students. In the midst of downsizing, she staged morale-building events, such as an Easter egg hunt for teachers.

Jeanette Makynen of Blaine, a retired Mounds View schoolteacher, recalled Huettl as creative and skilled in crafts.

"She was very close to the students and their parents," said Makynen. "She was one of the best."

In the early 1960s, she considered leaving education, and became a qualified beautician.

But she thought twice about changing careers.

"It made me realize that working with children was much more rewarding and satisfying than working with fussy women," she wrote in a brief autobiography.

The Rev. Lisa Richardson, Huettl's pastor at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Mounds View, said she regularly put together albums of cartoons and customized greeting cards for ailing friends and even for friends of friends.

"She was a hugger," said Richardson. "She was always thinking about another person."

Richardson fondly recalled that after Huettl retired, she dressed like an elementary schoolteacher might, wearing a pumpkin-themed sweat shirt in the fall and a sweater with a bunny during the Easter season.

"Whatever day it was, she made it a celebration," said her pastor.

She had been teaching at Valentine Hills Elementary School, when she retired in 1984. In retirement, she took classes in cooking, calligraphy and crocheting, making 50 afghans for family and friends.

Her husband, Gerald Huettl, died in 2005.

She is survived by her brothers Glenn and Donald Hoplin, both of Glenwood, Minn.; sisters Elise Anderson of Minneapolis and Miriam (Snella) Lundin of Pelican Rapids, Minn.; stepdaughters Linda Bryan of Little Canada, Pam Nashold of Cincinnati and Sandra Hable of White Bear Lake.

Services have been held.