Herkimer- Gary W. Ruff, age 73, passed away after a sudden illness on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at Little Falls Hospital.
Gary was born in Niagara Falls on July 31, 1946, the son of Hope (Tyler) Ruff and the late Herbert Ruff. A 1964 graduate of DeVeaux Boys Preparatory School, he went on to get his education at Hartwick College and Suny Oneonta. Upon receiving his Masters degree, he joined the faculty at Herkimer College in 1968. During his tenure, he was named professor emeritus of Social Sciences. In his 45 plus years of teaching his social issues club was popular at the college due to his enthusiasm for social justice. Gary had a special interest in advocating for Vietnam Veterans. He became a member of Agent Orange Victims International and organized seminars on the topic. He also had a passion for Native American rights, traveling to Wounded Knee, in 1973, with 5 students during the Oglala Lakotaś protest of treaty rights.
Upon his retirement as a full-time faculty member, Gary continued teaching and working part-time including co-founding HCCC's first Student Retention Program in 2008. He led a team of dedicated Emeriti faculty and Alumni in conducting outreach to at-risk students. This program referred to as the "Herkimer Model" resulted in significant improvements in student success metrics receiving accolades across the SUNY System. In 2014, Gary accepted a new position as Graduate & Student Retention Specialist at SUNY Adirondack Community College where he conducted student research and assessment that contributed greatly to improving college services for student athletes, students with disabilities, adult learners and veterans, as well as the general student population. He was a dedicated educator who taught numerous students, which he still knew by name, a staunch student advocate, a student retention expert, trusted advisor, and genuinely great human being.
Gary was a true humanitarian and an active member of the community. He was a parishioner of Trinity Lutheran Church. He coached little league, basketball, and soccer throughout the 1990s. Serving on the Herkimer Board of Education, The Lutheran Home Board, Valley Health Services Board, The Herkimer ARC board (2001-2014), and NYSARC Board of Governors and various subcommittees for many years all brought him great joy. He enjoyed the many friendships made through his time of service. He was named Volunteer of the Year in 2010 for his dedication to the ARC. He also volunteered in numerous capacities, alongside his dear friends, Ray Lenarcic, Rob Palmieri, Kelly Brown, Devin McDonald, and Lyle Aney with the Herkimer Hunger Coalition. He was also a member of the Herkimer Elks and Lions Club.
He was united in marriage on August 10, 1975 to Karen (Rich) Ruff. Together, they shared 44 years of love and devotion. He had 5 children, Lisa (Jim) Woods of Averill Park, Jennifer (Garrett) Olds of Ilion, and their mother, Mary Beth Miller of Herkimer, Sara (Joe) Lamanna of Herkimer, Erik Ruff of Charlotte, NC and Laura (Dominick) Scalise of Herkimer. He is also survived by his mother, Hope Ruff, mother in law, Edith Rich, cousin, Kathy (Richard) Ebdon of Colorado, and many beloved brothers and sisters in-law, nieces and nephews. His pride and joy were his 12 grandchildren- Alex, Megan, Bryce, Kaden, Luca, Jacob, Nicholas, Ethan, Ella, Geno, Isabella, and Anthony. He was predeceased by his father, Herbert Ruff, father in law, Anthony Rich, and special friend, Jack Alofs.
Gary enjoyed many outdoor activities including trips to the lake with the Rich and Raiello clans, fishing with all his grandchildren, long walks on the beaches of Cape Cod and Myrtle Beach. He loved sunrises and sunsets with Fall leaf rides to Lake Placid, along with playing softball, cards and golf with his friends Paul Conant, Rick Schomer, and his wife. Gary’s greatest accomplishment was his family. He was a devoted son, husband, father, and grandfather. He would often be seen at 3 different fields on the same day. He was happiest when all of his children were together. He never missed a chance to be in the pool playing shark or playing bocce ball. The family would like to extend their gratitude to his many friends for their support during this difficult time. A memorial service will be held at a future date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Central New York Veteran’s Outreach Center 726 Washington St, Utica, NY 13502, Herkimer County Hunger Coalition P.O Box 622 Herkimer, NY 13350, or Little Falls Hospital 140 Burwell St, Little Falls, NY 13365.
Arrangements are under the caring guidance of the Vincent A. Enea Funeral Service, (next to NBT Bank), 527 East Albany St., Herkimer, NY, 315-866-1500.
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