Jerard “Jerry” Goeke Ruff, MD, age 90, died peacefully with family by his side at IU Health Hospice House on October 19, 2021.
Longtime Bloomington physician, fitness advocate, athlete and sports fan, as well as a dedicated supporter of numerous community programs and organizations, Jerry was a proud and true Hoosier who thought globally while engaging and acting locally.
In 1965, the recently minted Dr. Ruff was thrilled to answer the call of need for an additional pediatrician in Bloomington, and he provided excellent care to countless area youths over the years; for some families he provided medical service for multiple generations before retiring from practice in 1996.
Jerry was born January 27, 1931, in Evansville, Indiana; he and two older sisters were raised by their strong and devoted mother, Ann Hermine Goeke Ruff LaChapelle. Throughout his life, he attributed the best of himself to the example of his mother, saying, “she was such a smart, hard-working, and amazing woman.”
As a boy in Evansville, Jerry began carrying newspapers, delivering to over 400 customers a day by age 10. In his early teens, he won a paid trip to Washington DC, as the top news carrier in the tri-state region. Newspaper delivery was a job he truly enjoyed and continued throughout his medical school years and beyond, as he frequently helped his sons deliver their paper routes on the north side of Bloomington in the 1970s.
Jerry graduated from Evansville Central in 1949, and came to Bloomington as an Indiana University freshman that same year. His experiences with student activities and especially intramural sports at IU made him a lifetime devotee of both Bloomington and the university. He rode in the inaugural Little 500 race in 1951, and his North Hall Friars team captured the winning trophy in the 1952 and ’53 races. He also coached outstanding teams for Sigma Nu in the mid-50s and was elected to the first class of the Little 500 Hall of Fame.
His college studies were interrupted by two years in the Army, where he made some forever friends. Inevitably, he returned to Bloomington and graduated from IU with a degree in history. In Jerry’s final year working on courses for pre-med, he met IU freshman, Nancy Jane Rennaker. They married in 1958, just prior to his entering the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Nancy was the true love of his life and his constant companion; they were privileged to work together for years in Jerry’s medical office, and she was by his side when he passed away.
Following graduation from medical school and his pediatric residency at Riley Hospital, Jerry and Nancy moved to Bloomington to raise their family of four boys. In 1980 he began a two-year allergy and immunology fellowship at the University of Louisville, and afterward returned to practice in Bloomington until his retirement.
He served the Bloomington community in many additional capacities through the years– such as school physician for the MCCSC, as fundraiser and board member of the YMCA, and through countless hours and actions to support Harmony School with its innovative model of “whole-person support” for students. A lifetime advocate for social justice and expanded civil rights, he served on the original Human Rights Commission in Bloomington from 1969 to 1971.
He was a legendarily spirited competitor and enjoyed playing many sports, but eventually focused his athletic passion on distance running. An early advocate for the benefits of running since the early 1970s, Jerry was long active in the Bloomington Track Club, in addition to several other Indiana running and racing organizations. He completed fifty-three marathons, including the Boston Marathon three times, and ran innumerable races in every state in the country. He served as director for several area road races over the course of three decades and was the organizer of the popular racing series, the Mag-7.
Jerry was suspicious of greed and never admired the acquisition of wealth for its own sake. He celebrated those who gave their time, energy, and resources generously; he was an inveterate booster of the underdog and little guys. He appreciated the fellowship of the First Presbyterian Church of Bloomington where he attended with his family for decades, and he tried to put into practice Christian values of service and responsibility to others. He bequeathed his body to the Indiana University School of Medicine Anatomical Education Program.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and four sons: Michael E. Ruff of Jasper, Indiana, Andrew J. Ruff of Bloomington, Theodore A. Ruff of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Joseph C. Ruff of Port Republic, Maryland. He is survived by daughters-in-law: Susan Bollman, Leslie Ruff, and Stacey Hann-Ruff. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren — Anna, Charlie, Paula Quinn, Abbie, Sophie, Camille, Hank, JJ, Addy, Lauren, Lainey, and Cate — and 3 great grandchildren.
A memorial service/celebration of life will be at First Presbyterian Church, Bloomington, on November 27 at 11:00 am. Visitation with the family will begin an hour prior at 10:00 am and will continue after the service.