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JOSEPH D. RUFFOLO

Obituary
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JOSEPH D. RUFFOLO, 70, of Fort Wayne, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, at The Town House Retirement Center. Born May 9,1941, in Kenosha, Wisc., he was a graduate of University of Wisconsin, Madison and of Harvard University's Advanced Management Program. Following graduation, he served as an intern in Washington, D.C. in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He held various management positions at Reynolds Metals and at the Squibb Corporation prior to coming to Fort Wayne in 1974 to accept a senior management position at NorthAmerican, Inc., then owned by PepsiCo, Inc. and later by Norfolk Southern Corporation. In 1987, he became NorthAmerican's Chief Executive Officer and served as CEO until his retirement in 1993. He co-founded RuffoloBenson, LLC, a merchant banking company, with a mission "to regain and retain local ownership of regional companies." Among other things, RuffoloBenson has been instrumental in working to develop the necessary infrastructure and financial support to encourage local entrepreneurism , including the formation of the Main Street Venture Fund, one of the first entrepreneurial venture capital funds in the region, to invest in and help guide start-up companies and other entrepreneurial enterprises. He was also a co-founder and investor in Tower Financial Corporation and Tower Bank and was also an investor in and advisor to numerous regional companies and start up biomedical firms. He served on the board of directors of numerous privately owned companies, such as AWS, LLC, Beltmann Transportation Group, Inc., Dekalb Molded Plastics Company, Jack Laurie Flooring, Inc., Pizza Hut of Fort Wayne, Inc., and SaniServe, Inc. He also served on the board of directors of a number of public companies, including Steel Dynamics, Inc., where he served as Co-Chair of its Audit Committee, a member of its Compensation Committee and as the Board's Lead Director, and Tower Financial Corporation, Inc., where he served as Chair of the Compensation Committee. He also served on the board of directors of a number of not-for-profit organizations, such as the Henry Foundation, Steel Dynamics Foundation, and the Schwab Foundation, following its reorganization by the Indiana Attorney General. He was also active in the American Symphony Orchestra League, the American Movers Conference, the Parkview Health System and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. He chaired the Youth Violence Committee, a local effort to understand and deal with gang violence, served on many civic and governmental bodies, such as the Fort Wayne Allen County Transportation Committee, Allen County Tax Committee and the Safety Academy, and was appointed to the board of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department and served as its Chair. He was also a member of St. Charles Catholic Church, the Business Forum and the Quest Club, and was a former member of the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club. As a community leader, he advocated the importance of inviting young people to serve on local boards and to get involved in community leadership and he pressed for changes in secondary education to better support the education and employment needs of a rapidly changing global economy. Prior to the remodeling of the Memorial Coliseum, he was involved in the efforts to build a new sports and entertainment complex in downtown Fort Wayne. In 1993, because of his well known expertise in the transportation business, he was called upon to assist in the privatization of government trucking companies in Russia, focusing on the breakup of government operated units and the creation of new privately held companies. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Linda L. Ruffolo; his daughter, Julie (Brian) Gilpin, of Whitefish Bay, Wisc., married to Brian Gilpin also from Fort Wayne; his two "pride and joy" grandsons, Jack and Luke Gilpin; and by his son, Joseph D. Ruffolo II of New York City. He is also survived and will be missed by many relatives, business colleagues and friends. He was preceded in death by both of his parents. By Joe's express wishes, there will be no public visitation or public funeral. His funeral service will be limited to a family only private Mass in Madison, Wisc. at the Campus Catholic Chapel of the University of Wisconsin. In lieu of flowers, preferred memorials can be made to The Parkview Foundation, the Towne House in Fort Wayne or to the Joseph D. Ruffolo Memorial Scholarship Fund for the benefit of deserving students pursuing business and entrepreneurial careers, c/o Tower Bank, Att: David Fee, 116 East Berry Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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Published in Fort Wayne Newspapers on Dec. 28, 2011
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