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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)

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

  • Jacki

    I am so sorry for your loss. I, too, lost my father, almost 7 years ago. He was my rock. The best person I ever knew. And I miss him everyday. I know your dad would be honored by your tribute to him. It is obvious that he was a wonderful man who loved all of you as much as you loved him. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  • Fackelmann

    Michael,
    I am very saddened by the news of your loss. Rip truly was a wonderful man. I wish I was there to share a drink with you in his honor.

  • Mary

    Michael, your beautiful tribute is making me cry at my desk. What a tremendous loss, but also what a wonderful gift to have had that relationship. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet him. His pleasure at being with you and your family was clear, as was your love for him. I’m thinking of you.

    Love, Mary

  • Blake

    Michael, this is a beautiful tribute, and I love the photo of Rip and Addison. I never saw a man so vividly smitten with his son, and his son’s family, as Rip–and no wonder. How delightful it must have been for him, over the years, to watch you become not only the kindest, most generous of men, but so accomplished in every department of life. For my part, I’m grateful to Rip for imparting so much of his own sweetness to a dear friend of mine. God only knows how much I and others are the better for it.

  • Linda

    Hi Michael,

    I’m so sorry about your loss and understand how you must feel. My dad died 12 yrs. ago at the young age of 63 and I still miss him very much. Yet, he remains, in many ways, inside me and by my side. My deepest sympathy and your sentiments are, obviously, much appreciated and admired by your dedicated audience. Amazing how many dads passed on their love of food….I still make my dad’s favorite homemade blue cheese dressing….and in so many such ways he lives in our family forever.

  • Michelle

    Michael,
    Your dad sounds like the type of man we all would have liked to have known. What makes me think you got your writing ability from him?
    My condolences,
    Michelle

  • TheApostateChef

    Words are your oeuvre, not mine.
    Having lost my own father, I can only say I’m sorry for your loss and hope that you understand the depth of my sympathy for you.

  • MissV

    Having lost the man who gave me my love of food unexpectedly and way too early, my heart breaks for you. I hope the next few days are filled with as many smiles and laughs remembering as they are filled with tears and sorrow.

  • Scott Deane

    I am very sorry for you and your family’s loss. That picture says a lot.

  • Jason

    Everybody should have as good a father.. My condolences to you and yours.

  • dallas

    beautiful story, your family is very lucky to have such a great dad…

  • shama

    If the picture was moving, the words were even more so. Your father sounded extraordinary Michael. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

  • The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet

    Michael -

    I sat here reading this with tears streaming down my face. I’m not sure if I was crying for your dad or for mine or for both of them, but this was a beautiful way to say good-bye. Rip would be so proud of this send-off.

    So sorry for your loss…

    Kim

  • nika

    SO very beautiful. Sorry for your loss. The loss of my father seems like yesterday (though it was1999) so I feel like there is little I can say other than you have done a beautiful job of sharing him with us.

  • john jaeger

    Michael and family:
    I just heard the news about Rip and I am saddened. I am truly sorry. Of all the bosses I have had in my career, Rip might have been my favorite. Not simply because he was the best. But because he was the most humane.

    When I think of Rip I always think of this run in he had with an account service guy who shall remain nameless. Rip and I were in his office and I was trying to get him to understand some bizarre idea I had (never a good sign). The account guy walked in and said, “Rip, I need you here tomorrow morning for an 8:30 meeting. It’s very important.”

    Well, your father nuts. “Goddamnit!” and other choice words. The account guy looked at him and asked, “Do you have a conflict in the morning?”

    To which Rip replied, “No! I have a Goddamn party tonight!”

    The world was a better place with him on it.

  • Shannon

    For a son to have written this essay about his dad goes to show what a wonderful dad and man your father was. I’m so sorry for your deep and profound loss.

  • The Mighty Gastronaut

    My deepest condolences. May you and your family celebrate his life and the impressions that he left on you.

  • Carolyn Jung

    Deepest condolences, Michael. I lost both my parents last year _ my Dad first, then my Mom two months afterwards. Nothing prepares you for the loss of your parents. It is a pain like no other, a sadness that seems like it will never end. But just know that the tears will eventually give way to the joyful memories you have of him forever. I know I think of my parents every time I enjoy a great Chinese banquet meal or some awesome dim sum. Think of your Dad whenever you enjoy a favorite morsel. It WILL make you smile, I promise.

  • NewBreed

    That’s a truly wonderful picture you posted. Thanks so much for sharing it. I lost my father last year to cancer. A great man. And it’s tough. Still to this day it seems sureal. Life without him. Keep him close, never forget him, keep telling the world how great he was through your stories and your actions.

    God bless.

  • Eilish

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad and what an exquisite photograph. You are right that it so perfectly illustrates the anchor that any good parent and grandparent provides. My heart goes out to your family and you. You are all in my prayers.

  • Feisty Bourbon Girl

    Michael, I am so sorry to hear this. You are one of my favorite food writers and I was so thrilled to find your blog last week. My deepest sympathies and warmest thoughts are with you and your family. He passed on his love of food, and family, to you. What a blessing.

  • Adele

    Michael,

    My condolences to you and your family on the loss of your dad. Your tribute to him is very moving, and he must have been incredibly proud of the the man and writer you’ve become.

    Hold close to your family and be gentle with yourself in the coming weeks and months. Give yourself time.

    Adele

  • David Ornstein

    I am so sorry to hear about your father’s death. I hope you are able to take the time you need now…

  • Ann Hogsett

    When I worked at Liggett, I would sometimes take copy to Rip for his comments. He almost always would ask me why I’d written something the way I had. At first I took these questions to mean he hadn’t liked what I’d done. I suppose sometimes that may have been the case, but usually he really just wanted to know why. Why I’d picked a word. What I’d been thinking. Why I believed this way was better than that one. Rip was always curious. Always inquisitive. Always digging deep, trying to find out more. More than that, he seemed to me to have a grand affection for the multitude of things that attracted his interest. That he just plain loved knowing more about everything. And when he turned his attention on something it was very often with delight. So many of us were warmed by Rip’s delight—in ideas, in experiences and, so often, in us. I’ll miss Rip’s laughter, his encouragement, his kindness. And his questions. So much.

  • Dana Meister

    Michael,
    I too had the privilege of working with your Dad at LS. As many know, agency-life is hectic with plenty of ups and downs. However, we could always count on Rip’s warm smile regardless of the type of day we were all having. A good lesson for all of us! My most vivid memory of Rip takes me back to Hopkins. We both were on a flight headed out of town at Thanksgiving time. Rip was leaving to judge a show and I was going to visit family. After a much delayed flight, Rip was kind enough to offer me a carrot that he pulled from his coat pocket (of no surprise as carrots were a staple in his diet here at LS). It was bit covered in lint, so I declined, but it made us both laugh on what turned out to be a tough travel day.

    I will fondly remember his kindness and extreme generosity. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    Dana Meister

    My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • Dana

    I just finished your book, Soul of a Chef, and read your blog often, you are a fabulous writer. I am so sorry for your loss, but it sounds as though you have or are making peace with it. I lost my father 11 years ago, he was 60, and I count my blessings that I had my father in my life for the 30 years I did. God bless.

  • matt k.

    I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing, but it is very touching that he was such a great influence in your life. I also have a wonderful set of parents and my father is perhaps the greatest influence on my life. that photo and your entry is poignantly appropriate and truly commemorates your father.

    my deepest condolences.

  • Evelyn Allen

    Michael…Rip was the inspiration for our recent LS reunion, as I’m sure you know. Rip didn’t want the party in his honor, but he was the catalyst for our gathering. We shared great memories of the past 30 years and missed him greatly, but we celebrated his life and his contributions to all of ours.
    Evelyn Allen

  • Amy

    Micheal,
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    This is a beautiful tribute to your father.
    My thoughts are with you and yours.
    -Amy

  • Reynolds

    Every once in a while I hear about someone I wish I could’ve met. Your father is one of those people. My prayers are with you and your family Michael.

  • Tim Ross

    Dear Mr. Ruhlman,

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. That picture just breaks my heart it is so endearing. I really enjoy your blog you have a great writing style and you appear to be a real class act as I have witnessed from a few of your TV appearances. My thoughts are with you and your family, I wish you the best.

    Sincerely,

    Tim

  • Dana

    Michael,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Isn’t it wonderful when we can look at our fathers and determine that they are not only great role models as fathers, but haved lived their lives as men in such a way that we turn out to be better persons for observing the way they lived life.

    Dana

  • ErikaK

    Michael & Family, my condolences for your loss.
    What a beautiful tribute and an awesome photo. I lost my mom very very suddenly 2 years ago to congestive heart failure and know what you are going through. I often think about what it would have been like to know and wait for her death rather than to have it come so quickly. God bless you.

  • Andy Coan

    Michael, the grace of hospitality is indeed, at its best, what the love of food is all about. My sympathies are with you; may your father rest in peace.

  • Corey

    Michael,

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your father.

    I was lucky enough to work with Rip for two years.

    I will always remember him as a supportive boss, a thoughtful mentor, and most importantly, one of the truest gentlemen I’ve ever known.

    I will keep your family in my prayers.

  • Newsmike

    My condolences — he sounds like a great guy. In a sense, though, he will live on through you and your kids. 70 years from now, your daughter may be showing her grandkids that photo and telling about the man who held her hand …

  • phillygirl64

    I am so sorry to hear this news.

    I lost my father 27 yrs ago this past May…While there is never a good time to lose a parent, it sounds like you have many wonderful memories to comfort you…

  • Marilyn Casey

    Dear Michael -
    I worked with Rip, your dad. He always had time for everyone who stopped by his office to chat or ask for advice. Not only was Rip kind and generous, he also had that smile! A smile that made his eyes dance with the light of warmth, spirit and intelligence – and one that lit the heart of anyone he spoke with. The world is less beautiful without Rip’s light, but a better place because of his spirit.

  • Chris Baldwin

    Michael,

    I knew your father as a co-worker here at Liggett Stashower and have nothing but respect and admiration for him. He was a pleasure to work with. Always asking questions. I loved sitting in his office to talk and seeing the black and white pictures of your children on his wall. He was very proud of you and your wife. He spoke of you often.

    I enjoyed reading your words about him as your father. I hope you and your family will take comfort in knowing how much we all enjoyed his humor and his presence. He will be missed because he was loved and admired so much.

    My thoughts are with you and your family as I think of Rip. Loved the photos on your blog. That’s the Rip I’ll remember.

  • John Lewis

    I worked with your Father at Liggett Stashower and I will truly miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Mark Szczepanik

    I had the privilege of working with your father at LS. He remains as one of my advertising heroes. I particularly admire his ravenous curiosity. He always had questions and was a lifelong student.

    I also lost my father too soon. It was about two years ago. He was 63. What really helped us through that time was all the stories told by family and friends about my dad. So here are a few of my favorite memories of Rip:

    There was a party that we were karaoke-ing at and we tried to get Rip to sing with us. He said he’d only sing if we had the song “Shaboom shaboom.” Which led to us to an exhaustive search all over the internet for the song. We never found it. So we can’t vouch for Rip’s singing talent.

    He was also a major player in our Halloween exploits. Every year we have a party here at the agency in which each department dresses up in costume. Well one year the creatives were mexican wrestlers. We had masks, names, signature moves, the whole bit. We built a ring in the lobby complete with ropes and break away props. I believe Rip’s character was “Verde the Violent” – due to his green mask. He was slated to compete for the “championship” vs. Earnie our photographer. He entered the ring yelling and carrying a stalk of celery – it was green. He and Earnie had quite the battle with Rip eventually being pinned as scripted.

    I was always amazed by Rip’s conversational skills. He could always find something in common with anyone. We’d often chat about raquetball and I considered challenging him to a game but it never happened. But after talking to some of his opponents, it’s a good thing I didn’t – he would’ve trounced me even at 40 years my senior. We’d often discuss movies and their plot points. And he had the same rapport with everyone at the agency from the mailroom to the CEO.

    Rip was one of the nicest guys I know and is already missed.

  • Linda

    Dear Michael,

    What a beautiful tribute to your father. I am so sorry for your loss and my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. I use to work with your father at Liggett-Stashower. He was an amazing man. He had such a good heart and always took the time to talk to people. He brought smiles and love to everyone whose life he touched. He will be missed greatly but never forgotten.

  • Leslie Resnik

    Dear Michael, Rip was the very definition of the word gentleman – in every sense. His integrity inspired me daily; his compassion soothed me so many times; his sense of endless wonder at the world’s treasures excited me; his curiosity informed us all and his mastery of the language humbled me. He was so much a part of my past and my profession. You brought him such joy. I grieve with you and share just a few of your magnificent memories.

    Love, Leslie Resnik

  • veron

    My deepest condolonces for your loss. I can imagine how it is to lose your dad. It is the hardest thing.

  • Mariana

    I used to work with Rip and just received the sad news this morning. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    His office was full of family pictures – he was a very proud father and grandfather.
    He will truly be missed. I’ve been lucky to have known such a wonderful man.
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  • rockandroller

    Michael,

    So sorry to hear your sad news, and what a fine tribute. *hugs*

  • Lindi

    Michael,
    What a touching entry. Thank you for sharing your deeply personal feelings at such a difficult time. Your father sounds like a man I would like to have known. I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Jacqueline Church

    Michael: I’m so sorry for you and your extended family. What a terrific man. I’m glad he was with family. I hope that the memories (like the precious captured in the photo above) will help to ease your grief.

    Deepest sympathy for you and your family.
    -Jacqueline

  • Jacqueline Church

    Michael: I’m so sorry for you and your extended family. What a terrific man. I’m glad he was with family. I hope that the memories (like the precious captured in the photo above) will help to ease your grief.

    Deepest sympathy for you and your family.
    -Jacqueline

  • Kevin

    I lost my dad three years ago this month and I felt the same way about him. My response was similar to yours; I wanted to let everyone know who the man was that influenced me so deeply. I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Bourdainiac

    You have my sympathies, Michael. So bloody sorry to hear about your dad. Stay strong.

  • Jacqueline Church

    Michael: I’m so sorry for you and your extended family. What a terrific man. I’m glad he was with family. I hope that the memories (like the precious captured in the photo above) will help to ease your grief.

    Deepest sympathy for you and your family.
    -Jacqueline

  • Katherine B.

    How lucky you are to have had a great Dad! My heart and prayers are with you and your family during this time of sadness.

  • Truc

    I’m so, so sorry. Thank you for sharing a tiny bit of your father with us.

  • kristin

    Michael,

    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. My thoughts and deepest sympathies to you all.

  • sarah

    Sorry to hear about your loss but truly it is incredible wonderful to have such respect and love for a parent. I feel the same way about my mother and her ability to be hospitable and her love to entertain…that is a rarity in our society. My sincere condolences.

  • Shelley Pchak

    May the wonderful memories of your Dad warm your heart each time you sit down for a meal. You know he will be there with you.

    My deepest sympathy to you.

  • Seth Haynes

    With life comes death and we are remembered best by those we touch deepest.
    Sorry to hear of your loss.

  • parkbench

    Deepest condolences to you and yours, Michael, and peace to you and Donna for providing your father with hearth, home and family.

  • closer to the bone

    Michael:

    I’ve always read, but have never posted here, until now.

    My condolences to you and your family, as you mourn both the tremendous loss, and lovingly recall the tremendous life, of your father.

    In times of such loss, I have often found solace in the following words by Yeats. Even if, like us all, such solace is fleeting, it nonetheless provides a sort of balm that, for the moment, helps to eventually heal as best as one can at the moment, when bereft due to the loss of a loved one.

    Sincerely,

    closer to the bone

    WHEN YOU ARE OLD

    When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead
    And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

    -W. B. Yeats

  • Sergio

    Michael,

    I send you my deepest condolences to you in this difficult time. May the Lord give you and your family the peace that surpasses all understanding. You are a product of the man who was your father, noble, upright and talented. His memory will forever be honored by your work. God Bless you.

    Sergio

  • Tom H

    Michael

    All my sincere condolences for the loss of your dad. Keep him close in spirit. This has been a very difficult year to date so I understand what you are going through. It is a statement of your love that you brought your dad into your house where he was comfortable and surrounded by loved ones. I hope I am as fortunate when my time comes.

    God bless you and your family.

    Just another boy from Cleveland who hasn’t moved back yet..
    – TomH

  • Lauren

    You and your family are in my thoughts today as you mourn the loss of your father. He would be proud of the tribute that you have written to him, I am sure.

  • stephanie

    My sincerest condolences to you and your family. The paragraphs above brought tears to my eyes, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to yours.

    G-d bless.

  • Kate in the NW

    Of all the million ways we are nourished, life with a loving parent is perhaps one of the most profund. Thank you and your father for sharing that with us all.

  • Debbie Franco

    Michael, I’m so sorry for your loss. My father died the 21st of last month, at the age of 76. I know your pain. Being Italian he was like your dad in the food department. He loved to eat and to feed others. He was a suburban gardener who was proud to share his bounty. We can be grateful we had them as in our lives as long as we did.
    Sincerely,
    Debbie Franco

  • Debbie Franco

    MIchael, I’m so sorry for your loss. My father died the 21st of last month, at the age of 76. I know your pain. We can just be grateful that we had our fathers as long as we did.
    Sincerely,
    Debbie Franco

  • NYCook

    Michael my sincerest condolences to you and your family. At 24 I just lost my father to Lou Gehrigs and just wanted to reach out with love and support. I know what a difficult time this can be. Good men must die, but death can not kill their names-Proverbs.

  • John

    My prayers are with you and your family, Michael.

    A beautiful, moving tribute.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  • ihop

    Dear Mr. Ruhlman,

    My uncle Jim was at US with you, and whenever your name gets mentioned (people in my family read your books a lot) my grandmother always likes to talk about how beautiful your mother was. So sorry to hear of your loss, and deepest condolences from all the Hopkins family.

  • Elisa

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My father died from the same terrible disease. It’s been 12 years ago now, but of course we never forget. It does get easier, though, to remember the good memories. It seems like you are already doing that. Food is such an important part of childhood, and for you, your adult life. It is wonderful that you had that as a connection with your father and that you can continue to honor his influence on who you are and what you are doing with your life.

  • Rob

    Michael,

    Deepest condolences. My dad was also and ad man in cleveland years ago. He died in 2001 at Akron General Hospital. Although we miss him, the memories last forever.

    RC

  • ChristaSeychew

    My deepest condolences, Michael. Having a parent you truly love, respect and admire is a gift. I’m sure that you are giving that same gift to your children as well, something that in turn surely made your father very proud.

  • Todd

    I am sorry for your loss, it is great to hear of men who lived the right way. I will keep your family in my prayers.

  • Dan McGurn

    Mike:

    So sorry for your loss.

    We lost my Mom under similar circumstances.

    Much love and sympathy to you and your family from your Dukie friends back east,

    Danny