Richard Ruble learned a lot about hard work from his father, who was a devoted coal miner. The son followed in his father’s footsteps, working in the mines for 25 years before an on-the-job injury left him permanently disabled.
The younger Ruble, a Jasper native, also learned about the benefits of sacrifice and giving to others, and he lived a life that showed it. When the April 27, 2011, tornadoes ripped through central Alabama, Ruble prepared food for those in need and coordinated disaster recovery for Walker County. Soon after, he was named the volunteer construction coordinator for the long-term recovery committee in Walker County, and he led the reconstruction of more than 200 homes — acts which led to Ruble’s receiving a commendation from Governor Robert Bentley in recognition of his efforts.
When Ruble died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in January at age 52, it was no surprise that his last act was one of sacrifice and giving hope — and life — to others. Ruble donated his kidneys at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital and saved the lives of two people. His cornea donations gave the gift of sight to two others.
Ruble has been selected by the Alabama Organ Center (AOC) to represent Alabama on the Donate Life float in the 2014 Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. Ruble’s family, friends and neighbors will put the finishing touches on a floragraph of Ruble that will adorn the float Saturday, Nov. 2, following the first Ruble Run, which begins at 9 a.m. in Gamble Park in Jasper. Registration fees are $25 for the 5K, $20 for the Family Fun Run and $20 for the Senior Stroll. Sponsorships are $150, and all monies raised will benefit the educational efforts of the AOC and the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign.
“When asked in the hospital about the possibility of donating his organs, there was no hesitation,” said Brandon Ruble, Richard’s son. “He made it clear that, if he could help others in his passing, he undoubtedly wanted to do so.”
This is the third year that the AOC has sponsored a floragraph on the Donate Life float. This year’s float, which will be called “Light Up the World,” will feature 81 floragraphs adorning five lanterns raised almost 30 feet into the air. The flames of the second and fourth lanterns will be animated to flicker to represent giving life to others.
Ruble is the only Alabamian to be featured on this year’s float, and his family will fly to California to participate in the parade and other festivities with the families of other deceased donors.
“We find peace in knowing that, even though Dad is no longer here to help us or to cheer us on in the stands, we know his legacy lives on through us and in those to whom he gave a second chance at life,” Brandon Ruble said.
More than 3,800 people in Alabama are awaiting a transplant, according to Ann Rayburn, senior manager of professional education at the AOC. The state has an average of 120 organ donors each year.
Rayburn says Ruble and his family will be great representatives for Alabama in the upcoming Rose Parade.
“Richard had a generous spirit, which was evident in his volunteer efforts in the community and in his decision to donate his organs and tissue to help others,” Rayburn said. “For us, Richard and all of the Rubles represent the hundreds of donor families in Alabama who have graciously risen above their grief to help others. This year’s float is a beautiful visual representation of donation and transplantation.”
For the past 10 years, dozens of organizations nationwide, including the AOC, have collaborated to enter a Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. Originally envisioned by a lung recipient who wished to thank donors for their gifts of life, the Donate Life Rose Parade float has grown into a national tradition featuring dozens of participants each year, including riders who have received transplants, walkers who are living donors and deceased donors memorialized in “floragraph” portraits integrated into the float’s design.
This year’s memorial floragraph portraits will honor the living legacies of 81 people from 34 states, Korea and Taiwan.
More than 150 individuals have signed up to be part of Saturday’s first Ruble Run. For more information on how to participate, call 205-522-0732.
To learn more about becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit www.alabamaorgancenter.org.