McCann winner forester, war vet and more

Ruud honored for commitment to community
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
Bart Ruud has a Bronze Star for his meritorious leadership while under fire in Vietnam. He’s been a counselor to returning Iraq veterans trying to find their place again in America. He’s also been a firefighter on the front lines of many of the state’s wildfires. But when you see Ruud today, he’s the one volunteering to clean dishes at annual Thanksgiving dinners. He’s also this year’s recipient of Auburn’s prestigious Vernon Gould McCann award, which recognizes those who dedicate an extraordinary amount of time to community service. “I’m thrilled and honored and humbled,” Ruud said upon learning of the award. “The company that I’m with now are some of the best people who ever called Auburn their home.” While Ruud said he was surprised to hear that his name was even considered, those who sent in letters nominating him said he was the perfect candidate to join the list of McCann honorees. “All one of us has to do is ask Bart to help and if it is good for the community, he will step forward,” wrote Nick Willick, former Auburn Police Chief and Rotary Club member. “He does this much like Vernon McCann, without the need of praise or recognition. It is people like Bart Ruud that makes Auburn that special place all of us love to call home.” Ruud said his love for a community he has spent most of life in is what drives him to volunteer for the plethora of activities he participates in. Those activities range from helping build a new welcoming sign to Auburn on the freeway to working at the Auburn Community Fun Run. He’s also been a committee member and worker for every Project Auburn venture including This Old House, a Rotary club project where members help fix an older house in the community. This month, the club is repainting the exterior of the home of 44-year Auburn resident Alice Carrigg. Carrigg said she is grateful for the help. She said she’s interacted with the volunteers including, Ruud. “He’s very friendly and he talked to me about his family,” Carrigg said. “He’s got a twin sister and so do I.” Ruud said he enjoys meeting people through the projects, and is happy to be a part of a large group working to make the community better. “I’m a good follower,” Ruud said. “I don’t need to be the leader. I just like being a part of a team.” Ruud’s career and personal history, however, is full of notable leadership experience. A trip through the forest with a powerful mentor made a then-9-year-old Ruud certain that his life would be spent among the trees. “I never looked back to or to the side,” Ruud said. “I went straight with the idea of forestry.” Ruud graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in forestry. But the career he dreamed of would have to wait. Ruud graduated at the height of the Vietnam War and was selected as a prime draft pick in the lottery, which made it difficult to find a job because employers didn’t want to hire an employee who might have to leave soon. He did find work with an Alaskan logging company, but about 15 months into the job and 20 miles out in the middle of a forest, he was served his draft papers. Ruud later found himself in one of the most dangerous places to be during the tail end of the war. As a section chief of Counter Mortar Counter Battery Radar section in I Corps in DaNang and Hue areas in Vietnam, Ruud and his men were responsible for collecting information about where fire was coming from, and then relay that location to troops so they could fire back at the source. Ruud said he barely remembers the day he received the Bronze Star. He said he had probably been awake for the better part of 70 hours when a major flew into the field, pinned it on Ruud and left. “I felt a lot of guilt about receiving that award for a long time,” Ruud said. “So often the leader gets the award when it should be the men.” Eventually Ruud fulfilled his duty and returned home. He then began his 33-year career at Sierra College, first as a professor with the forestry program and later as an academic counselor, reaching out to young war veterans. Ruud said he feels that Vietnam veterans were not taken care of when they returned home. Today he says his work with veterans is “complementary” to other organizations now in existence. “People need to understand that helping a veteran in need now will result in a cost savings down the road,” Ruud said. His efforts to help young veterans have made an impact on those who have sought his advice at Sierra College, according to Ron Martinez, vice president of human resources at the college. “The young veteran student population has grown exponentially, and Bart became quite involved in counseling them and assisting with the challenges they face in returning to civilian life,” Martinez wrote in his nomination letter for Ruud. “His unique life experiences … created an instant bond and credibility with the students.” Ruud’s interest in forestry didn’t take a break when summer vacation came along at the college. He spent 10 fire seasons as an El Dorado National Forest contract wildland firefighter and crew boss. During those seasons he was on the front lines of wildfires in several Western states. Ruud said he liked learning about the strategy of firefighting during those summers. “I enjoyed the challenge of man against nature,” Ruud said. As Ruud looks forward he says he sees himself continuing with his current activities. He said he owes a big thanks to his parents, Dorothea and Otto, and his sisters, Anne and Delana, for molding him into the person he is today. He said one of the values he learned early on from them is to take pride in his community. That, he says, is one of the main reasons why he volunteers. “This is my home and I want the best for Auburn,” Ruud said. “When people feel good about their community, they live a better life.” Ruud will be presented with the McCann Award April 17 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds at the State of the Community Dinner. Tickets are available at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, (530) 885-5616. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- Fast facts: Meet Bart Ruud Name: Bart Ruud, 63 Did you know: Ruud is a Vietnam War veteran who has returned to the country three times since the war. In October 2008, he had a “life-changing” experience when he spent almost two weeks talking to his former enemies in their homeland. Life on the ranch: His parents, Dorothea and Otto, raised Ruud and his sister Anne and twin sister Delana on a farm in north Auburn. The farm still produces beef under a lease to professionals associated with the Bruin Ranch History: Grew up in Auburn and attended all Auburn area schools including Auburn Union Elementary, E.V.Cain, Placer High School and Sierra College ----------