She [Tacy] didn’t come over the next day, nor the next, for Baby Bee died. Betsy’s father and mother went to the funeral.
(Excerpts from Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace)
When I first read Betsy-Tacy, it surprised me a little that Maud would write about the death of Baby Ruth (Baby Bee) in a book for children. She could have easily left this fact out of the story. However, when Maud was a little girl, the infant mortality rate was still high. At that time more people died at home than in a hospital. Death is a part of life and touches us no matter what our age. Later in the chapter, Betsy explains heaven to Tacy and comforts her. I think Maud may have used the story of Baby Bee as a “teachable moment”.
Ruth Evangeline Kenney (Baby Beatrice ‘Bee’ Kelly), the youngest child of Patrick and Rose Kenney, was born May 26, 1897 in Mankato. Maud wrote of her, “She was the pet of all. Her voice was sweet and true and she knew whole songs like Just One Girl, which she sang for the Kenneys’ delight. When she saw her father driving in at night, she would run to get his slippers. But Mr. Kenney was away on a short trip when she fell ill and died. George, the oldest brother, was away too, in the Spanish-American War.”
Little Ruth Kenney died of spinal meningitis at the age of three on February 23, 1901. Her funeral was held at St. John’s Catholic Church and she is buried in Calvary Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Just two days after Ruth’s death, the Mankato Review printed a card of thanks from the family: “To the many friends who so faithfully and lovingly labored to lighten the burden of our recent affliction and to make it less hard to bear, we desire to return our heartfelt thanks. Words can at best but faintly express what we feel. But we know our kind neighbors and friends will understand. Mr. and Mrs. P. Kenney and family.