Charles Walter "Walt" Ruckel Jr., 85, of Niceville, Florida, died peacefully on Saturday, April 21, 2012, surrounded by his family.
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He was born on Jan. 1, 1927, in Pensacola, Fla., to Charles Walter Ruckel and Marion Plew Ruckel of Valparaiso, Fla. He attended local elementary and high schools, completing his last three years of high school at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he graduated in 1944. In 1944-45, he attended Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Ga., as a member of the U.S. Army Specialized Training Reserve Program.
He served in the U.S. Army Air Corp as an airplane mechanic from 1945-47 at Keesler Field, Miss., and Hickam Field, Hawaii, being honorably discharged as a corporal. He graduated from Soule' Business College in New Orleans in 1948. In 1974, he graduated from Okaloosa-Walton Junior College in Niceville. On Feb. 2, 1948, he began working as a bookkeeper and teller in the bank founded by his grandfather, James E. Plew, Valparaiso State Bank in Valparaiso (later Valparaiso Bank & Trust, then Vanguard Bank & Trust). He was made Assistant Vice President in January 1950 and President in 1951, following the death of his father. He served as Chairman of the Board until December 2004, when he was granted Board Member Emeritus. He was a graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University.
He worked in the real estate development business for 56 years under the name Ruckel Properties, Inc., which began on June 17, 1955, and has been actively developing real estate for homes and businesses in the Niceville, Valparaiso and Fort Walton Beach areas. His most recent real estate developments were Hawk's Landing residential community, Swift Creek residential community, Heritage Gardens Cemetery and Heritage Gardens Funeral Home.
He was a member of the Niceville-Valparaiso Rotary Club since it's chartering in 1948 and served as its president 1954-55. He was elected "Man of the Year" for southern Okaloosa County by the Rotary Club in 1957 and again in 1970. He was active in local civic affairs, including the Boy Scouts, Chamber of Commerce and United Way, all for which he was past president. He was also active in the Florida Bankers Association. He was Chairman of the Air Force Armament Museum Foundation and was Campaign Chairman of the successful funds drive that raised $1,200,000 for the building of the museum on Eglin Air Force Base property in 1985. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Civil Air Patrol (Florida Wing Staff).
He was a member of the Krewe of Bowlegs (and a past Captain Billy Bowlegs), Fort Walton Yacht Club, Bluewater Bay Sailing Club, Rocky Bayou Country Club and the First Presbyterian Church of Niceville. His activities included swimming, sailing, canoeing, camping, hunting, horseback riding, photography, reading, genealogy and flying aircraft. He held a commercial pilot's license with single engine land qualification, sea, glider, instrument ratings and instructor ratings. He had a passion for travel, visiting places across the USA, Central America, Australia and most of Europe.
He is survived by eight children, Charles Walter Ruckel III (Molly), Stephen Walter Ruckel (Rhonda), James Plew Ruckel, Gregory Meaut Ruckel (Rose), Martin Tille Ruckel (Phyllis), Marion Ruckel Skalicky (Andre), Sharon Joyce Ruckel and Philip Bond Ruckel; and 12 grandchildren, John Charles Ruckel, Sean Michael Ruckel (Lena), Kristin Ruckel Dickson (Oakley), Kathleen Noel Ruckel, Wava Ruckel Adams (Darren), Howard Madison Ruckel, Marysa Ruckel Kirby (Scott), Matthew Stephen Ruckel (Kristy), James Plew Ruckel Jr., Kaitlan Christy Ruckel, Jenna Marguerite Skalicky, and Sofia Elizabeth Skalicky; and 15 great-grandchildren, Shelby Elizabeth Ruckel, Hannah Kate Dickson, Brayden Brian Adams, Matthew Owen Dickson, Oliver Martin Adams, Noah Logan Dickson, Benjamin Matthew Ruckel, Mathias Doyle Ruckel, Vance Timothy Kirby, Maddie Grace Dickson, Gabriel Stephen Ruckel, Jonas Hammer Ruckel, Samuel Aaron Ruckel, Matthew Campbell Ruckel and Waylon Parker Ruckel.
Funeral services will be held on Thursday, April 26, at 10 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Niceville. Visitation will be on Wednesday, April 25, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Heritage Gardens Funeral Home.
You may express condolences to the family and sign the guestbook at www.heritagegardensfuneralhome.com. Heritage Gardens Funeral Home of Niceville is entrusted with the arrangements.
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Apr. 24 to Apr. 25, 2012