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 toRip_4_2.

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.

(Stand Up 2 Cancer)


283 Wonderful responses to “Richard Morgan Ruhlman 1938-2008”

  • Lynn Lilly

    Michael and Donna —
    I’m so sorry for your loss, and I mourn for you and all of us who knew him, worked with him at Liggett Stashower, and loved him. Rip’s great gift was that he was always the same…steadfast,dependable as the sunrise. No matter who you were — junior copywriter or multimillionaire client — Rip was the same. Kind, interested, curious, at ease, putting you at ease. Committed to doing the right thing, tough to ruffle, easy with a laugh. Things were always as clear to him as the grammar rules he practiced (and shared) so effortlessly. That made him an especially good man to have in an agency creative department. When stress and emotions kicked up a fog (didn’t they always?), he could be counted on to see the simple, clear path, and he was willing to be the guy who took the first step. The world is a little smaller, a little darker and a little colder without his big, bright warmth.

  • Kelly McNamara

    Dear Michael:

    I worked with your dad for several years at Liggett-Stashower. Mostly we talked about where and what he ate the night or weekend before. A lot of those stories were about things you and he did together. Restaurant reviews and recipes always came before work with Rip and me.
    My friends and I, some of whom also worked with your dad at L-S, have a monthly Supper Club. Last year we did a pseudo-Iron Chef thing and Rip was the judge. Even though it was a social event and none of us pretend to be professionals, he took it delightfully seriously, making detailed notes and providing the final verdict. I hadn’t seen him in a while previous to that night and now I am so glad I had that time to spend with him, connecting as we always did, over food and friends.
    My best to you and your family. I see more of your dad in you every day.

    Kelly McNamara

  • neil

    Always sad to lose a parent, my thoughts are with you. From what I can see from afar though, your dad lives on through you.

  • Marilyn Chase

    Dear Michael and family:

    If ever there was a guy who so enjoyed all of even life’s littlest moments, Rip was that guy. And he so deserved to enjoy many more of them.

    I had the most wonderful honor of working with Rip at LS for almost 20 years and the pleasure was all mine. His kindness, generosity, concern for others set the standard for what we aspire to be. He remains very much a part of the LS culture.

    I have wonderful stories and memories of working with Rip but I can tell you that the conversations I enjoyed most were when a new photo of your children appeared in his office. I never missed noticing Donna’s beautiful black-and-white images and he never missed the opportunity to share a special moment he spent with them. He was so very proud of all of you.

    What a treasure you were so lucky to have and we were even luckier to share.

  • brandon_w

    Thank you for sharing with us your adoration for your Father.

    I hope that you and your family are doing well, there are a lot of out here sending you our best wishes.

  • Tony

    Dear Michael,

    Your books, Making of a Chef and Soul of a Chef, have been huge inspirations to me while in cooking school and beyond. I’m so, so sorry for your the loss of one of your biggest inspirations, your Dad.

    My deepest condolences to you.

  • Alison Evans-Fragale

    With each memory, let our hearts be reminded that nothing can ever take away the beauty we have known, for love remains a part of us forever.

    May the memories held deep within your heart help to soothe your spirit at this difficult time.

    You’re in my prayers.


  • Tammy

    So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written. I met your father when I started my career in public relations at Liggett-Stashower in 1995. I will always remember him walking around the office with a carrot in his mouth and frequently boasting of your successes.

  • Julie C.

    May the beautiful memories you have of your father help to ease your loss and pain. Thank you for sharing him with us. God Bless.

  • Jason

    “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”

    dude, that’s beautiful.

  • Dominic

    Michael, your eloquent tribute to your dad brought me to tears. It is obvious that his generous spirit was passed on to you. I can only hope that I have the same kind of effect on my own children some day.

    May God comfort you and your family in this time of sadness.

  • Shelley

    Wow. I stopped in to see what’s happening in Ruhlman’s World, and here I sit, moved to tears. The words, the pictures.

    I am SO sorry to hear about your dad. But I can see now where you got your good looks. 🙂

    Hang in there…

  • Chris Neill

    My condolences. Thank you for sharing a little of him with all of us.

  • Lynn

    Your father was a beautiful person, unmistakably part of the LS fabric. Reflections of my career at LS include fond memories of him. My condolences to you and your family.

  • Sara

    So sorry for your loss. Keep remembering all the good times and laugh when you can.

  • Leena!

    My deepest sympathies for your family’s loss. It sounds like he was a wonderful man who will live on in the hearts and actions of his family.

  • Doug Kline

    Dear Michael,

    You wrote a beautiful remembrance that many of us can relate to. I knew Rip and Carole in the early 1960s when we spent our summers working for the Georgian Bay Line, and your grandfather headed the Chamber of Commerce. You come from first-rate stock, and you carry the banner well. Walk tall and be proud.






  • Chris

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family for your loss.

    You paint a wonderful picture of your father, who I’m certain was a fantastic person. How great it is that you had each other.

  • Steven Gosset

    Michael: I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ve always treasured the time I’ve spent with my Dad, and know how privileged I am to have such a relationship, as you did with yours.
    And anyone who can go through life with the nickname Rip had to be a pretty cool guy.
    I wish you and your family peace during this most difficult of times.

  • alex davis

    Rip rocks! “The last person to the table.” Thank you for this beautiful profile of your dad. It is a window into who you are, and so appropriate for your food blog, where people go for a sense of bounty. To have him at your home in his final hours must’ve been an enormous gift, and also an ordeal that required courage. I hope you can be comforted knowing you made every moment count.
    Alex Davis

  • Howard (drbehavior)

    You have my sincerest and deepest sympathies on the death of your dad. Ironically, today at the University of California Davis I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer which also came with a very grim prognosis.
    I’ve always enjoyed your writing because of your unfailing sincerity and this testimonial to your father is but another example of your heart always being in the right place.

  • Deborah Dowd

    My very deepest condolences Michael on the loss of your dad. I know what a terrible loss it is since my own father died when I was just a child and I lost the stepdad who, with my mother, raised me ten years ago to cancer. As much as your heartfelt words,that wonderful picture captures the warm and loving relationship you must’ve had with your father. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • carrie

    Michael, this is beautifully written and poignant. I am sorry for your loss. I can especially relate because we lost my mom about a month ago, at age 60, to metastatic breast cancer. She instilled in me the love of baking I have today. I think your father would be proud. This is a lovely tribute.

  • Lydia

    I am very, very sorry to hear this news. My deepest condolences to you and your family. You’ve written a wonderful tribute and that is a touching photograph.

  • Harry/Bonnie Hobson

    Deepest sympathy from us both. I knew and wad deeply fond of Rip who I worked with since 1980. I kidded him that we wanted me to retire so he could have my offce. Afer we moved to West Va. I received an e-Mail from Rip. “What the hell are all these black pillows on the window sill?”. My answer will remain between Rip and myself.
    Say hello to an angel for me Rip. Were you surprised?

  • Hilary Kanter

    I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  • Suzy Q

    That you had him as a safety net and his granddaughter had him as her anchor says it all.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Matthew H

    Mark – it doesn’t matter I guess how much of a fan I am of yours or how much respect I have for what you do. What matters most is how much the people in your life everyday are affected by you. I’m sure your dad was very proud of the things you accomplished and I for one and very very sorry to hear about your loss.

  • Monica Martines

    I worked with your father for some years when I was in the marketing departments of both Ameritrust and Third Federal, and LS was our agency. He was the best creative director ever. The last few years, we would occasionally meet at the Shaker Library and chat. He was an extraordinary gentleman, and it was my pleasure and privilege to know and work with him. I extend my deepest sympathy on your great loss.

  • Mark Rigney

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family. The death of a father no matter the circumstances is a difficult thing. Cherish the memories.

  • brad

    Very sorry for your loss. Very inspirational article…i’m sure he’s proud.

  • Eliza

    you probably won’t get through all these comments. Or perhaps you will. I went to your blog today looking for info on curing meats and saw this. I am sorry for your loss. Your post (and the photo) moved me to tears. Our time with our parents is so precious. And you have written such a thoughtful tribute to your dad, his influence and his legacy to you. stay strong and write and cook your way through it.

  • Michael Franco


    Please except my sincere condolences on the loss of your father. It is clear that he was a wonderful man who loved deeply and was deeply loved. He will always be a part of you and will be forever missed.

    I first realized what family means to you when I read your book House A Memoir, a book that resinated strongly with me. This charming and very personal book proves that a house is made of love, strength, respect and family. These qualities that your father offered to you, are the very same qualities that you offer to your children. And in turn, to your children you have become your father. What a beautiful and moving tribute to the man you so loved and admired. There is no question that he was very proud of you.

    Thank you Michael for the value that you but into your work. It makes the world a much better place. Please know that I share the grief of you and your family and that I wish you peace.

    In friendship,
    Michael Franco


    Holy flame
    By any name-
    Creator, Terminator,

    Receive this praise,
    The due of days
    Of hobbled terror, healing:

    Your muffled light,
    Its comrade night
    Swept outward, forward, farther

    Reynolds Price

  • jodycakes

    Hi there,

    My heart goes out to you – I lost my father unexpectedly 3 years ago and felt every word you wrote.

    Thank you for the personal post – I know times are difficult but hang in there – it does get easier…

    warmest regards
    jody flood

  • John

    My condolences to you and your family. I enjoyed the post, and it reminded me of my father. Thank you for that.

  • cmt

    I’m so very sorry for you loss. Your written tribute was so lovely–it brought tears to my eyes. May memories comfort you.

  • Joel McNeely


    So Sorry. And that photo… in profile it is YOU, so striking in the resemblance. And so that is how it is, how it has always been, you carry on for him, with his soul in you.

    He lives on.


    Joel McNeely

  • Claudia (The Original)

    Oh, Michael, my deepest sympathies for your loss. But Rip lives on – in you and all the instincts and talents he passed on to you, and the warmth of family love and hospitality. And Donna captured it all in her photo – even for those of us who never knew him.

  • chris orcutt


    I lost my father 12 years ago, and I remember it as the worst time of my life. I hope you find the comfort in the fond memories of your father. Try to celebrate your father’s life every day by remembering something he instilled in you, and never be afraid to share the stories with any one who will listen. I was very moved by the story of your father, and I thank you for sharing it with every one.
    Stay strong…

  • Ron Guenther

    I had the privilege of being Rip’s Racquetball partner for many years. I will indeed miss him.

  • Jane

    Dear Michael:

    What a perfect tribute to your father. Donna’s photograph with adison is wonderful. Sounds like you had a special releationship and will forever have wonderful memories. Thinking of you and your family. Jane

  • Tom Woodward

    Michael —

    Allow me to add my voice to those whose lives were touched by your dad.

    I was hired by Rip (and Tom and Lynn) for my very first copywriting job at Lang, Fisher & Stashower in 1985. Little did I know at the time how fortunate I was to land where I did. The atmosphere was professional, well-adjusted, nurturing and fun — in spite of the daily pressures inherent in the ad biz. Rip Ruhlman was one of the pillars who created and maintained that positive environment and I look back with great appreciation for that.

    I was, along with many who have chimed in here, one of Rip’s regular racquetball partners/victims. For such a laid-back sort, he was remarkably competitive and never allowed the overall ledger to nudge in my favor. What a hoot it was to spend lunch hours with a boss kind enough to make me a frequent guest at his club.

    Back at the office, Rip was the consummate grammarian. He taught me how to write advertising copy — how to crystallize ideas, prioritize selling points and jettison fluff. He’s the one who dragged me, kicking and screaming, though my “pun phase.” Picture the typical scenario: I trudge into Rip’s office, copy sheet in hand, and immediately he whips out a red pen and pulls off the cap, ready to mark the bejesus out of my opus…before reading word ONE! It used to drive me loopy, but The Professor knew exactly what he was doing. He needed that pen. I needed that pen. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m proud to say that one man’s ballpoint helped create the foundation for whatever I’ve achieved in this business.

    I’ll always be thankful to have been a friend and protégé of Rip Ruhlman, a man whom I’ll forever associate with red pens, carrots, an Underwood typewriter, and a terrific group of people who thought the world of him.

    Tom Woodward

  • Tom Moore

    Hi Michael:

    Saturday I told you the story of how I tried to teach your Dad how to drive a stick shift and thru his questions we BOTH learned to do it correctly (how annoying).
    Then there was a few weeks ago..I saw Rip in Heinen’s and I said “I’ve got a really lame offer to make…I can give you a ride to the upcoming L-S reunion, but I have another commitment on the West Side afterward, so I can’t bring you back.”
    He laughed, “Wow…now that IS lame!”
    Me: “But I would be happy to drop you off at the RTA stop.”
    Rip: “RTA! I love RTA! I’ll get back to you.”

    In the olden days used to set up at Norwood and Van Aken for the Memorial Day parade with our little ones, among other things hoping to see Rip on his bike. One time after his visit, my 5-year old said “Who was that?”
    I said, “That was about the nicest man you will ever meet.”

    God bless.

  • Chicago Chris

    My deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your father.

    You so eloquently eulogized this man, so much so that I almost felt like I knew him, and so wanted him to be MY father!

    Warm thoughts to you and yours.

  • Heather Broad

    All my heart goes out to you and your family. I feel and can relate to your pain. You father sounds like an amazing man, you’re luck to have had him. And he you.

  • Matt

    I owe you a debt of gratitude, for it was your book Making of a Chef that kickstarted my love of food and cooking. After reading your post, I realize that I owe your father a debt of gratitude as well. My condolences, Michael.

  • Becky

    Such a sad and loving tribute. You no doubt possess his very same admirable character traits. Warmest regards, becky

  • Ralph

    Thump to the heart… peace sign…
    Growing up, my dad was the oldest (and coolest) dad in my group… I have him back here now, for a short time, i fear. He made sure that I sat at my grandmother’s knee as she made the ravioli… those blessed ravioli… where do the years go? It WAS just yesterday. Carpe diem. All my thoughts…

  • John Hogsett

    I had the distinct pleasure of working with your father when I worked in the mail room at Liggett-Stashower and on my route of dropping off mail I could always count on his smiling face to welcome me into his office. While there he would always ask me unique questions about my day and my life and more often then not he provided his own “Rip” take on any situation. Our conversations might have delayed my route for a few minutes but they were always one of the highlights of my day. I am truly saddened by your loss but I am quite thankful for knowing such a kind man.

  • maui

    Mi más sentido pésame para Ud y su familia en estos momentos de dolor.

  • Paul

    Michael, I’m so sorry to read of your (and this world’s) loss. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time.

  • Lance

    Dear Michael,

    Just heard the sad news about your father. I lost my mom a few years ago now to cancer as
    well; it’s never easy. Your tribute and Donna’s photo are both very touching and beautiful. My condolences to you and your family.

  • Sean

    I lost my father just a few months ago. While my relationship with him was different than the one between you two (I also wrote about him on my blog), it makes no difference at the end of the day. I think of him every day, now more than ever, and it will take a long time to heal. I wish you all the best in your healing process.

  • Marina

    I lost my Dad February 28th to a very rapid lung cancer. We didn’t, and he didn’t know he was sick, and it took 12 days from diagnosis to his passing. I know all too well how you feel. I miss him terribly, and I wish that I could tell you that as time goes by that you will be able to feel less like weeping, but I can not. It sounds from your writing that you adored your Dad, like I adored mine. It will always be an open wound, and it will always be very close to the surface. The slightest memory sends me to tears. Perhaps it will be different for you. My sincerest condolences.

  • Carlye

    I remember your Dad as a warm and personable gentleman. You are a lucky guy to have a father who was so supportive of your writing.
    Best wishes.

  • Sally

    My first time ever leaving a comment.

    My profound condolences – this was a beautiful tribute to your Dad.

    Touching, beautiful

    take care of yourself..

  • Greg Wing

    I am very sorry for your loss. I had the pleasure of working for your dad for 2 years at Liggett and I was always very impressed by how kind he was to everyone, even newcomers like myself. I will always remember the cool rubber Halloween masks that decorated his office. I have never worked with someone who was so admired and respected by his co-workers.

  • John Ettorre

    A fitting poetic tribute to a no doubt uniquely wonderful man. He remains alive in your inspired work. My sympathies to your entire family, Michael.

  • Linda Seabold

    My heart goes out to you — you not only lost your dad, you lost your best friend. I know that feeling.
    Your article was a beautiful tribute. He sounds like the kind of man I would have loved to know.
    And, he was fortunate to have a wonderful son like you.
    Thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Connie Schultz

    Michael,what a privilege to read your beautiful tribute to your father. Grief has a way of sneaking up on us, so be gentle with yourself. I am so sorry that you lost your father. He was too young.

    Connie Schultz

  • Katy Kafantaris

    Hi Michael…catching up on your blog and VERY sorry to hear of your dad’s recent passing..what a wonderful tribute and photos that capture the great relationship that you had with your dad. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family—it’s wonderful that you have all the great memories and experiences to hold on to…those are what will get you through the sadness. Take care!

  • Barbara Fisher

    Your father is with you always, not only because he is your father and thus contributed half of the genes that made you what you are, and not only because he raised you and taught you the values that made you who you are.

    He will not only live on in your mind and heart through the memory of his love, which nurtured you into where you are.

    He lives on in every cell of your body, every fiber of your physical being, and in your very soul because of all of the meals he fed you. When we eat, we incorporate not only the physical essence of the food into our bodies, but we also incorporate the spiritual essence of it. And foodstuffs are affected strongly not only physically, but spiritually, by the person(s) who prepare it. Food prepared with love and care, nourishes not only our bodies, but our souls, and from what you say about your father, and just from the way you write in general, I can tell that your soul has been well nourished by the love of others in the form of food.

    He can never be truly taken from you, nor you from him.

    Remember that always.

    Blessings to you and your family, now and ever.

  • We Are Never Full

    I know this is overdue, but I am so sorry for your loss. What a lovely piece on your father. He sounds like a wonderful guy! That picture at the top of the post is gorgeous.

  • Christopher Travers

    Michael – I am so sorry to hear of your father’s death. It must be very hard for you and your family – our condolences. I just finished reading THE SOUL OF A CHEF today and I am CERTAIN your father must have been so proud of you and what you have done with your life.
    Best to you,
    Christopher Travers
    Santa Monica, CA

  • Carolyn Hori

    Hi Michael,
    I know its been a while since you wrote this post, and the anniversary approaches. I lost my mom to breast cancer after a short 3 month battle in late 2007. She was similar to your father and showed me a love of food and entertaining. I have followed your career since MofC, FL cookbook,Bouchon cookbook, Bourdain, etc and I am thankful that your father taught you to follow your passion for food. I appreciate you and Rip. Enjoy his memory on the anniversary-throw a great dinner party in his honor with food/friends and drink that he would love-that what I do! Best, Carolyn