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Since the age of four, a love of paper dolls has carried Barb Ruiter, of Forest City, through a lifetime of enjoying the paper creations.

“First ones I ever played with were the Lennon Sisters,” Ruiter said. “They were a singing group on the Lawrence Welk Show. I was really young. I remember the yellow suit on the girl, because yellow was my favorite color.”

Ruiter said the paper dolls belonged to her neighbor, who had allowed her and her sister to play with them.

“We would dress them in the pretty dresses and I thought they were so much fun and thought 'I’ve got to get some as soon as I can,'" Ruiter said.

That simple, delightful thought started her paper doll journey has taken her from simply admiring her friend's paper dolls, to attaining her own, even building on those interests into her adult life.

Ruiter is active with presentations in which she speaks of her collection of paper dolls and her love for them to nursing homes, churches and other service organizations.

“I have six tubs I carry to presentations” Ruiter said. “I love making people laugh and sharing my stories.”

One story in particular Ruiter finds very meaningful is that time she thought she had lost some of her favorite paper dolls.

“I used to play with Kate and Jennie,” Ruiter said. “They were called school pals and on the cover they had the olden day’s telephone. I would pretend that they talked on the phone a lot.

"I played a lot with them and they had these cute yellow dresses. I loved playing with these and could play with them for hours and hours."

One day when Ruiter came home from school, she couldn't find the paper doll anywhere.

Ruiter said she looked all over the house, turned over furniture, looked under it, looked in the attic, and even in the basement.

“I looked everywhere,” Ruiter said. “I could not find the doll. I was getting hysterical. So, I was kind of sad and in grief over my paper dolls being lost.”

It was close to Christmas, but Ruiter said she just wasn’t in the Christmas spirit, because she didn’t have her favorite paper doll, Jenny.

“They really meant a lot to me," she said. "Christmas morning, I sat down in the living room. My baby sister brought me this package and said, ‘Barbie, I wanted to give you a present that you would love.’"

Inside was Jenny, her sister had taken her to give her to Ruiter for Christmas.

Ruiter said, with a laugh, “I thought it was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

"I wondered ‘Why would you steal my paper doll?’, but I was happy to get her back.”

Ruiter's collection of paper dolls, reprints and originals are from purchases from antique stores or online.

Over the years, Ruiter has accumulated too numerous amounts to count. Her interest has expanded to include her own creations of some full-bodied type paper dolls and a quilt with a paper doll theme.

Ruiter has also added royalty paper dolls purchased at a convention. They include “Meghan and Harry” and Kate and Meghan, autographed by the artist at the convention.

“Years ago I worked as a reporter for the Globe Gazette,” Ruiter said. “I had interviewed this lady, who made a paper doll quilt. I thought about that many times since I did that story and so here it is.”

After her first articles were published in the Paper Doll Review Magazine, in 2010, another article had been published locally, about her accomplishments.

A lady from Garner had read the article in the Globe Gazette and invited her to do a mother and daughter tea presentation.

Since that time Ruiter has been kept busy with her paper doll presentations throughout neighboring communities. 

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Jesusa Christians is the Community Editor of the Forest City/Britt Summit-Tribune.

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