BOB RUCKLE, loving father and husband, talented musician, steady friend, and consummate professional, died Friday, September 10th, at the age of 91.
Family being his top priority, Bob overcame many physical limitations in recent years that hindered his mobility and required assisted living, and with great determinationstayed in close touch despite the isolation of the quarantine. Neverhaving shied from technology over the decades (he was likely thefirst in his neighborhood to own a Commodore 64), he embraced smartphones and whatever apps he could find until he could reunite with his loved ones in person, and for that his children and grandchildren are grateful.
Robert Louis Ruckle was born in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1930. His love of music and piano playing skills came naturally, having been born to Grace Cottrell, a piano teacher who played the organ in New York silent movie theaters and married Louis James Ruckle, one of five "Ruckle Brothers" who co-owned one of those theaters. Louis died in a car accident threemonths after Bob was born, but Grace and Louis' romance remains a treasured family story.
After service in the U.S. Army, Bob attended Cornell University and Clarkson University, where he oftenplayed piano at parties and was part of a barbershop quartet. Bob graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, and came toCharleston, West Virginia, to work for Union Carbide. There, he metand married Phoebe Ann Smith, a native West Virginian. They were united by music - jazz, classical, broadway, opera - and theirsocial lives grew from participation in the Charleston Light Opera Guild, the West Virginia Opera Theater and the St. John's Episcopal Church choir.
Both Bob and Phoebe performed many roles in Charleston Light Opera Guild productions, but by far Bob's most shining achievement was playing the King of Siam in "The King and I" twice, first in 1962, and then in 1982. Being such a mellow person, Bob surprised many for excelling in this fierce role, even going so far as shaving his head, much to the chagrin of Phoebe, who played one of his wives in both shows. In addition, Bob often accompanied Light Opera Guild rehearsals on piano, and was affectionately dubbed "knucks" by his good friend and Director Tom Murphy. He was also a member of the Guildaires, a small ensemble that performed at various venues, including The Greenbrier. Many ofBob's closest and longest friendships were formed during this time, including that of fellow lead performers Bob Howell and Louis Husson.
Bob went back to college in the 1970s and became a certified public accountant. While serving clients for several years, he took more college courses and obtained a Masters of Business Administration degree, and eventually taught business at the University of Charleston. An animated and enthusiastic professor, Bob developed strong bonds with many of his students and colleagues, who would reach out to him years later. So it was with mixed feelings that he accepted an offer to serve as the City of Charleston's Finance Director under Mayor Kent Hall. He found the job veryrewarding, and continued to serve under Mayor Kemp Melton until Bob retired from the city in 1996.
During his partial retirement, Bob andPhoebe enjoyed traveling around the region, researching their family's genealogy. Stops inevitably involved seeking out venues for live music and cocktails and making countless acquaintances, andfriends, along the way.
Later, as Phoebe's illness progressed, Bob never left her side and was a tireless advocate on her behalf. In the five years after Phoebe's passing, Bob remained professionally active, retaining a few accounting clients and serving on committees at Edgewood Summit, where he resided.
Those left to cherish his memory include son James Ruckle; daughter Paige Mann (husband John Mann); daughter Stacey Ruckle (husband Joe Altizer); and grandchildren Brandon Mann, Brittany Mann, John Mann III, Grace Byers and Eva Altizer.
There will be an informal memorial meal1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18 in South Charleston. Those interested inattending please contact the family at 304-553-2833 or email@example.com, as we would like to obtain an accurate count in order to observe COVID precautions. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to organizations Bob and Phoebe volunteered with: the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association, the Craik-Patten House or theCharleston Light Opera Guild.