My dad died today in our house, a month or so shy of his 70th birthday, from lung cancer. I’m writing about it here because I loved him, because he was the most influential person in my life along with my mom, and I want everyone to know about him. But I write about him in this public space for a second reason I’ll get to.
Rip Ruhlman was born in Cleveland and spent most of his adult life as an ad man, a copy writer and eventually creative director and an owner of the Cleveland agency Lang, Fisher & Stashower, which became Liggett-Stashower. He loved this city, he loved his work and his colleagues. He never missed a deadline.
He loved his friends. He was the kind of man, we were saying today, who, when a close couple divorced, remained best friends with both of them. Not surprising for the man who remained best friends with his ex-wife, my mom, Carole, of West Palm Beach, who was at his side today.
But I write about him here, on this food blog, because he was the spirit of generosity and hospitality. He always thought of others first and was always the last to the table making sure everyone had everything they needed before he sat. He loved food, loved, loved to eat, loved to drink, loved to feed others. He was never happier than when he was serving someone else. I dedicated my book, Making of a Chef, to him, “provider of the feast,” because he was that, both literally and spiritually. He was bounty itself. He was the ghost of Christmas present, and I got to be with him all the time.
But it’s most important for me to write about him here to acknowledge to those readers who have found some value in my work, that were it not for him, and the way he lived his life, I would not have been able to take the risks I needed to do what I do now. He encouraged me to pursue what I loved, and I knew he would be a safety net if things got bad. What little I have done, would not have been done, without him.
I cannot help but be moved almost to tears by the above photograph, which Donna took in Maine on Rip’s 60th birthday. Rip with his granddaughter, ever the parent, holding the child’s hand as she looks over the edge into who knows what, emboldened to do so because of the anchor behind her.
Goodbye, Dad. I love you.