JAMES RUOS (1934 - 2020)

  • "A great friend since early 1972. We will miss his great..."
    - Jay Sheppard
Service Information
Enders and Shirley Funeral Home - Berryville
1050 W. Main Street
Berryville, VA

RUOS James L. Ruos James Leigh Ruos, who led a life deeply connected to nature, died December 29 at his home in Paris, Virginia. Ruos slipped his earthly bonds at home, his beloved wife Mary Carlson Ruos and his faithful dog "Obi" at his side. A dedicated field biologist with a taciturn demeanor, a wry sense of humor, and an ever-present pipe, Ruos, 85, served in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 21 years, at an eventful time when conservation was maturing into the modern environmental movement. He joined the Federal agency in 1966, after studying sharp-tailed grouse and their Midwestern grassland habitat for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Ruos' early Federal career was spent at the Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center in Maryland as a migratory game bird specialist. Ruos was the first to propose the novel concept of a "debt-for-nature" swap, by which forgiveness for foreign debt might be offered to other countries in the hemisphere in return for habitat protection for migratory birds. Born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in 1934, the son of Clifton Peale Ruos and Martha Bunting Ruos, he graduated from Gettysburg College with a B.S. in biology in 1956. Ruos did additional graduate work in wildlife biology at the University of Wyoming and at Humboldt State College in California. An avid practitioner of the "royal sport" of falconry from the age of 12 and for the next 73 years, Ruos worked with falconers worldwide to support their sport, to restore imperiled populations of birds-of-prey, and to mentor young people entering the ancient art centered on the inexplicable, largely mystical, bond between handler and bird. And it was falconry, ironically, that prompted Ruos' departure from the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Operation Falcon" - still-controversial to this day - brought Federal agents into sharp internal agency disagreement between its law enforcement division and its migratory bird conservationists. As a Federal scientist and a falconer within the same agency that conducted the acrimonious investigation, Ruos uneasily straddled multiple, competing priorities, but earned himself the reputation as a "thorn in the ass of law enforcement" for questioning what some contended was overly-zealous law enforcement and for challenging beliefs that falconry, itself, was harming the survival of rare birds-of-prey. "The attacks on his professional reputation and integrity haunted him," remembers one of his children. Disillusioned by the political fallout from "Operation Falcon," Ruos retired and founded the Caribbean Islands Travel Service. Of his resort booking business, aimed at affluent, middle-aged North American vacationers, the Baltimore Sun wrote in 1991, "Jim Ruos found his niche on a St. Martin beach where clothing is optional." Ruos became a U.S. representative for a major naturist resort on St. Martin and handled reservations for 13 other properties. In addition to his wife, Mary, Ruos is survived by three children, Carolyn (and Bruce) Thomas of Shepherdstown, West Virginia; Jennifer (and Brian) Comeaux of Covington, Louisiana; and James (and Julie) Ruos of Miami, Florida. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Christian and Carl Thomas, Bradley and Christopher Comeaux, and Ian, Madison, and Sydney Ruos; by one brother, John (and Lee) Okie of Jacksonville, Florida; and by several nieces and nephews. His family regards his commitment to them and to the appreciation of nature and wild places as Ruos' greatest legacy. Services to honor that legacy are planned for a later date. Memorial donations may be made in memory of Jim Ruos to Blue Ridge Hospice of Winchester, Virginia (brhospice.org [brhospice.org]) or to The Peregrine Fund's Archives of Falconry at the World Center for Birds-of-Prey in Boise, Idaho (peregrinefund.org [peregrinefund.org]) Arrangements are being handled by Enders & Shirley Funeral Home, Berryville, VA. Online condolences may be left at www.endersandshirley.comwww.endersandshirley.com
Published in The Washington Post on Jan. 12, 2020
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