Dr. Robert Ruggeri
June 6, 1936 — July 25, 2013
Walla resident Dr. Robert W. Ruggeri passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, July 25, 2013. He was 77 years old.
Robert (Bob as he was known to his friends and family) was born to Battista and Elsie (Germano) Ruggeri on June 6, 1936, in Waterbury, Conn. His formative schooling was spent at South School in Oakville, Conn. From there he went to Sacred Heart High School on a track scholarship. In 1954, the same year that Olympian Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier, Bob, at the age of 17, set a Connecticut State indoor mile record with a time of 4 minutes, 30 seconds.
His successes, both academic and athletic, led him to a full scholarship at Providence College in Rhode Island where he majored in biology and was co-captain of his track team. His education continued at Boston University Medical School in Boston, Mass., where he graduated with a doctor of medicine in June, 1963. Following medical school, he continued his training with a rotating internship at the University of Cincinnati Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1964 – 1971, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight surgeon and family physician. After the Air Force, Bob continued his education and training with a five year residency in orthopedic surgery at Akron General Hospital in Akron, Ohio. He became a board certified orthopedic surgeon and practiced in Walla Walla from 1973 until his retirement in 2001.
In addition to his passion and devotion to his career as a surgeon, Bob also remained a competitive athlete throughout his life, breaking records as a distance runner well into his 60s. At the age of 39, he won the Cheney marathon in Cheney, Wash., with a time of 2:49. He ran Bloomsday over 12 times and won his age group three times, coming in the top 10 percent overall in a race that hosted as many as 57,000 people. He took third place in the master’s division at the Honolulu Marathon, finishing the race with a torn Achilles tendon.
At age 45, he placed third in the Nike Marathon in Eugene, with a time of 2:32. His performance in Eugene earned him a No. 3 national ranking in the master’s division by a nationwide running magazine. And in 1993, at the age of 57, he was awarded the Inland Empire Runner’s Athlete of the Year award. He maintained a 6 minute, 30 second per mile pace until his early sixties.
Though he was afflicted with a debilitating illness in late 2002, he continued to “shuffle” at local races and with his beloved running group until confined to a wheelchair in 2011. Never one to give up easily, Bob remained a competitor until the moment he took his last breath. “You have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith. Now there is in store for you the crown of righteousness.” 2 Timothy 4:7
Bob is survived by his wife, Kathy Ruggeri of Walla Walla; his brother and sister-in-law, Gary and Linda Ruggeri of Watertown, Conn.; his sister, Jeanne Generali of Middlebury, Conn.; his three children and their spouses, Dr. Roberta Ruggeri (Dr. Steve Redmond) of Portland, Erik Ruggeri (Alison) of Hailey, Idaho, and Rachel Ruggeri (Mark McConnell) of Seattle; three grandchildren, Owen and Emmett Ruggeri of Hailey, Idaho, and Isla Redmond of Portland; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and dozens of longtime friends.
The funeral mass will held on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at 3 p.m. at Assumption Church. A spaghetti dinner in Bob’s honor will follow the mass at the Assumption Parish Center. All friends and family are welcome to join us in remembrance of Bob. In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to Desales Catholic School, the Blue Mountain Humane Society, or the Walla Walla Symphony. Friends and family are invited to sign the online guest book at www.herringgroseclose.com.