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In memory of Ev Ruch

March 11, 2011
By Dave Hotter

As we drove into Westfield Cemetery on Valentine’s Day, I still couldn’t get over the shock and sadness of Ev’s sudden passing. How ironic, I thought, that the snow had to be plowed to clear the way for him, after all the times he had done it for others. I imagined he was smirking as we trudged through the snow and deep muddy puddles in dress shoes and I bet I made him smile, momentarily, as I pointed out the deer tracks in the snow. I felt his spirit at the gravesite, as the wind gusted through the temporary tent, forcing a few of us to grab onto the tent poles for fear that the whole thing would take off. But, as the Honor Guard fired their rifles and completed their salute, the wind began to settle down. There was a moment of stillness in the air and I felt he was at peace then, as a few raindrops fell from the sky.

It was almost fitting that Ev sent us that wind as a sign of his farewell — putting up that last bit of fight. Anyone who knew him well had no doubt experienced his tough side, but the memories that filled my head that day were of the kind and caring man, who had provided strength, stability, and support to me for many years. Many stories were shared over those couple of days — at the viewing, in the church, and at lunch. This made me realize that Ev had touched many people’s lives in a very positive way. Emotions got the best of me in the church so there were many words I wanted to share but couldn’t. I would like to share a few of them now.

I began to get to know Ev some 30 years ago, through my friendship with his son, Danny. Since my first memories of Ev were that of a tough disciplinarian, who brought the unruly outbursts in the school cafeteria under control, he certainly got my respect the first time I was invited to his home. But once in the house, I quickly learned there was much more to this man, as I felt the warmth and friendliness of his entire family, including Jeanne and Nana.

As my friendship with Danny grew, I became part of the extended Ruch family. It started out with little things, like a ride home from school or a sporting event. In fact, it became an almost daily ritual for many years that Ev and Danny would shorten my walk to school, by picking me up on their way. As long as I made it from my house pass the corner of Portage and Main in time, I was sure to hear the hum of the tires on that Dodge pickup approach from behind me, and the drone change as the truck decelerated and neared the curb.

Ev (and Jeanne) gave me my first real job as a cook at Elwell’s. I was only 15 years old, but they took me under their wings (and paid me under the table!) until I was of legal age. That was the day I got penned with the nickname “Squidly.” Many of us had nicknames at Elwell’s and this one was indelibly written on the plastic drink cup that awaited me on the shelf near the sink each day when I arrived at work. It was the perfect nickname for the scrawny kid that I was, though I wasn’t proud of the connotations it carried, as you can imagine. I have many fond memories of Mark managing the restaurant and yelling at Danny and me as we argued over who was going to restock the canned goods or wash the dishes.

In years to follow, I was fortunate to have the support of Ev and his family in much greater ways. I became a regular at the supper table in high school, when my mother was working the evening shift as a nurse. I was always grateful for the warm meal and felt special to have my own seat at the table. I tried to show my thanks (and respect) by pitching in a hand to take out the garbage or feed the dog. I was beginning to see the softer side of Ev, more and more.

Ev was generous and patient as a father-figure and a trusted resource for knowledge and insight. I am grateful that Danny shared his dad with me during many of the events that may seem small now, but were monumental at the time. Ev would take Danny and me out in the old Volare station wagon to practice driving and parallel parking when we were 16 years old, as we prepared to take our driving exams. These trips started out as rides intended for Danny’s benefit, but Ev was quick to offer the same privilege to me as well.

Ev was very insightful and observant, too (though I think Jeanne also played a part in this!). You didn’t always need to ask when you needed a hand. Ev could anticipate it. When he heard I was in the market to buy my first car at 17, Ev helped me search the classified ads and took me for some test drives. I’ll never forget the old hot-rod we checked out over at the salvage yard/auto shop in Dewittville. It had a Hurst shifter and nice Cragar wheels. I gave him one look and he knew there was no way we could sell my mother on that one! After finally choosing a car, he brought me to his mechanic to have it checked out. It set my mind at ease, knowing that the mechanic would do me right because he knew he would have to answer to Ev if he didn’t.

I am also thankful to Ev for introducing me to hunting and the camaraderie that goes with it. He patiently taught me how to safely shoot and carry a firearm in the field and he let me into the “club.” We met in his kitchen each opening day for breakfast, followed by a trek into the fields in Charlotte where we posted up. Ev and Danny outfitted me with an old pair of hunting clothes and let me borrow one of their guns, knowing that I couldn’t afford to buy my own at the time. Just like when I was younger, Ev was still getting my respect. I made sure to clean the gun I borrowed and even offered to clean his.

Ev was there the day I killed my first deer and he patiently taught me how to field dress it. I know that he was as proud of me as I was grateful for him to be there that day. It was a nice-sized doe. And as Ev always said, “If it’s brown, it’s down.” Through college, I would return home for opening day with Ev, Danny, and the rest of the boys. The group was growing, as the younger nephews became old enough to hunt. Ev loved to have everyone gather in the kitchen and enjoyed giving teasing the young boys, just like when I was younger. At lunch time, we would reminisce about previous years and poke fun at each other. I was still referred to as “Squidly” in those circles, a name I was becoming more accepting of by then. A number of years later, Ev helped me pick out my first shotgun at a gun show in Jamestown — the start of my own collection.

During those visits to Westfield, I could always count on Ev and Jeanne for a warm bed (or couch) to sleep on and a hot meal to fill my stomach, even a place at their Thanksgiving table. I would often roll into town at the wee hours of the night, and sometimes wake Ev from one of his “naps” in the recliner. He was always happy to welcome me though, with a hearty “Hey, Squidly!”

In years that followed, I would sometimes make surprise visits and Ev was always glad to spend a few minutes and sometimes hours, catching up on what was new in both of our lives, whether it was about the newest “toy” he bought or the project he was working on or an upcoming trip to visit Danny or Mark.

When I think back, it’s hard to believe that Ev was the same man I first remember seeing in the cafeteria. He became someone who helped me grow in so many ways. And every time I stopped by to see him, I could count on being greeted with a big smile and a hearty laugh, followed by a handshake from a hand the size of a bear’s paw, along with a matching hug. This, of course was followed by the eternal, “Hey, Squidly!” — a moniker I had become proud of and looked forward to hearing, because it’s the name Ev called me.

I will miss Ev dearly. There aren’t many people who impact your life the way Ev did mine. With his passing, I’m reminded of a quote I once read — that success is not marked by what we get from this life, but rather what we give — and Ev gave me a lot. I think the best way I can honor him will be to follow in his footsteps and strive to leave the same kind of mark that he did.



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