Family, friends surprise local icon suffering from ALS

Local - 3/14/2014 6:19 PM by Stuart Hammer

FAYETTEVILLE – Rick Rutledge is fighting a losing battle with ALS. And when he rolled into the Fayette County Court house this morning, he had no idea dozens of family and friends were waiting upstairs with a grand plan.

“It was a big surprise,” said Rutledge, “This was not anything I was expecting.”

Friends of Rick spoke about his good deeds and service to the community, “It makes me glad they only told the good stuff. It’s humbling.”

The praise and recognition showered Rick, and it overwhelmed him at times. He received awards from as far as Charleston for all of his service.

The feeling in the room was more than just joy.

Family friend Sarah Powell says Rick is like a second father to her, “(He’s) funny, (has a) positive attitude, always up to try something new.”

 “Rick's a great guy. He has a very position attitude, one of the most optimistic persons you will ever meet,” says Oak Hill City Manager Bill Hannabass, “He makes things happen too; I'm proud of him.”

Fayette County Commissioner Denise Scalph says Rick has touched so many people, “Knowing him in all aspects he is a wonderful, wonderful man. And I am very honored to have known him.”

“To see how he's grown and changed as a person and followed his dream of working so hard to become a priest, working so hard on the farmers market… It just makes me very proud to know him,” says friend Patti Hamilton.

Rick is a tireless worker, and one of his prides is farming and the Oak Hill Farmer's Market. The city honored Rick by naming the pavilion on Virginia Street in his name.

“Hopefully that'll be something that helps grow the local produce and help out the local farmers going forward,” said Rutledge, “That's why we do it.”

“I'm so glad they're honoring him for the work that he's done for the Fayette County Farmers Market. He's put in a lot of time and effort and it's a great resource for our community.

“I think it's amazing. I think it shows the power of one person and leadership and caring about your community. And if more people could do the things that Rick has done, what a win for the community it would be.”

Rutledge thanked his friends for showing up and offered some advice for folks, “Chances are tomorrow you can't do what you did today, so don't get too attached.”

When Rick was diagnosed with ALS in June 2013 he could have never imagined the struggle life would become. But he plans to keep on giving, and keep on touching lives in so many ways.

“Somebody said it's nice to be able to attend your own wake.”

And what a beautiful wake it was.


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