Gerald Thomas "Jerry" Ruff
1954 - 2021
BORN
December 29, 1954
DIED
March 26, 2021

Gerald 'Jerry' Thomas Ruff

Gerald "Jerry" Thomas Ruff passed away unexpectedly Friday, March 26, 2021, at the age of 66. At the time of his passing, he was surrounded by his loving wife and daughter at his country home in La Crosse, where he spent years growing a family and walking the nature paths that he loved so much.

Jerry's loving presence was first felt Dec. 29, 1954, in Minneapolis, when he was born to Gerald and Mary Kay (Holland) Ruff. His family then moved to Fargo, N.D., where Jerry attended Holy Spirit Grade School and Shanley High School. Growing-up with five brothers and sister, Jerry made sure to keep his parents' attention by pushing the occasional boundary, test-crashing bicycles into trees, and wrestling with his siblings. Jerry also loved to run cross country, listen to a variety of music (James Taylor being a favorite), and volunteering for events like taking care of the elderly.

For higher learning, Jerry received an elementary education degree from St. John's University and a Master's degree in English from the University of Minnesota. It was during this time that Jerry's sister, Mary, introduced him to his better half, Vivian Storm. Although Jerry thought the dates with Vivian started well before they actually did, the couple would eventually come to an agreement on their relationship status. On April 30, 1983, at the Pontoppidan Lutheran Church in Fargo, Vivian's father the Rev. Waldemar Storm, officiated and blessed this wonderful couple's marriage.

In 1984, Jerry and Vivian moved to La Crosse, where their family's roots would grow over the next several decades with four children in tow, three boys and one daughter. Together they built a life focused on faith, family, friendship and love for one another. To help support his family, Jerry occupied several different positions that involved writing, editing, and teaching English. Over the years Jerry was employed with the Diocese of La Crosse as editor of the "The Times Review" newspaper, Capstone Press in Mankato, Minn., and St. Mary's Press in Winona, Minn. He also had some limited work at Viterbo University. Like his father, Jerry had a way with a pen-stroke and finding the right choice of words (even if his children didn't always agree with how he edited their school papers). Jerry retired in March 2020, and he thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to use his time as he wanted. Jerry spent the last year of his life working on numerous creative endeavors, writing poetry, children's stories and editing for friends. He secured contracts for publishing several children books. The first of which will be released in August 2021. These books will be an everlasting gift for families and children.

For those who had the opportunity to meet Jerry, he always provided a genuine smile, love, and grace for others. He forged many relationships through ordinary daily encounters, at such places as the workplace, the YMCA, the Roncalli Newman Center/English Lutheran Church men's group which he participated in weekly for years, his neighborhood, and community encounters. Jerry was shaped by his loving parents, his strong Catholic upbringing, and his continuing search for faith, truth, and love. During his years in La Crosse, Jerry participated in fellowship with the members of both Roncalli Newman Center and English Lutheran Church. Jerry truly lived out Jesus' Gospel message to love God above all things and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jerry is survived by his wife, Vivian Storm; and in legacy by his children, Ethan (Lina Binte Yahya, partner), Quinn (Olivia), Gregory, and Alice (Howard) Heinrich; his grandchildren, Neil and William Heinrich and Owen and Wilder Ruff. In addition, Jerry is survived by his mother, Mary Kay Ruff; siblings, Christopher (Clare), Paul (Dunia), Mary (Kevin Smith) Ruff, Joseph (Martha), Patrick (Mary), Steven (Gloria); foster sister, Maribel (Tom) Ebeling; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Gerald James Ruff.

Although his family and friends are heartbroken, they take solace knowing that he is now with his Lord and Savior, forging new trails in his heavenly home.

There will be a private funeral for the family April 3, at English Lutheran Church in La Crosse. The event will take place at 11a.m. CDT and a live stream link will be available on the English Lutheran Church website home page, which can be found at www.englishlutheran.org for those who would like to join virtually. There will also be a celebration of life event in the future, with details forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials which will be distributed to charities of the family's choice and that were close to Jerry's heart. Jerry's online guestbook may be signed at www.schumacher-kish.com.


To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by La Crosse Tribune on Mar. 31, 2021.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
Apr
3
Funeral
11:00a.m.
English Lutheran Church
, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Apr
3
Funeral
11:00a.m.
Live streamed at www.englishlutheran.org
Funeral services provided by:
Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services - La Crosse
GUEST BOOK
Sponsored by Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services - La Crosse.
Add a Message
41 Entries
I had just heard of the passing of Jerry. My deepest sympathy to Viv, the children, grandchildren and other family members. Jerry was a joy to work with at the "Times Review." He also gave me some great advice when I was writing my papers for classes at Viterbo. Hold on to the memories and Take Care!!!
Lisa Breuer (Linder)
April 13, 2021
I am blessed to have known Jerry. When we worked together at Capstone, he was always brimming with kindness, positivity, and generosity. No matter how deadlines and pressures stacked up, Jerry kept smiling and found a way to work through. Over the years, it was wonderful to reconnect with him as jobs and opportunities changed. In every conversation, he would fill me in on his family--he was so proud of his kids. Sending prayers for comfort to his beloved family and many friends. He will be missed.
Lois Wallentine
Coworker
April 9, 2021
I was so fortunate to have known Jerry. He was one of my very first bosses early on in my career right after college and his kindness and encouragement gave me the confidence I needed to be able to keep going with it. Jerry always made time for you and made you feel special and important. His kindness and love for others was boundless, and I will always remember the wonderful impact he made on my life. Sending my sympathy to family and friends. He will be greatly missed by so many.
Carrie Sheely
Coworker
April 8, 2021
I first met Jerry in grade school and throughout high school. He certainly made an impact on my life at a very young age. Condolences to his family.
Tom Dunn, Corpus Christi
April 7, 2021
My condolences on the passing of Jerry. I knew Jerry from a certification class at Viterbo and English Lutheran church. He always had a smile for me and my family. It was a pleasure to have known him and he will be missed.
Teresa Clark
Classmate
April 6, 2021
We are so sorry for your family's loss. Jerry was a kind and thoughtful person. He will be missed.
Kathy & John Storlie
April 5, 2021
We wish we could be there with the entire Ruff clan as you honor a truly blessed and loving husband, father, son, brother, and in our case, older brother of our son- in-law, Steve. Like all the Ruffs, Jerry was fun to be with, but when he requested our daughter, Gloria, to translate some children’s books into Spanish, my pride and gratitude soared. Truly, Jerry was planting seeds in the minds of little ones unknown to us now, and who may be culturally different, but who will have learned of God’s love and will pass it on long after we are gone. As a result we can only echo the words of brothers Paul and Pat: How can [we] keep from singing!
Yes Jerry, as you so artfully said in your poem, “The Fellowship of Trees,” We have this seed of gratitude to give, and we thank you for teaching us to recognize what should be obvious, but is so easily ignored. God speed, dear friend, and thank you for giving us a foretaste of the unbelievably close fellowship that awaits us at the heavenly banquet we will enjoy with Jesus Christ, who makes all good things possible. Much love, Bill and Isabel Beatty, Spokane, WA.






Bill and Isa Beatty
Family
April 5, 2021
So sorry to hear of Jerry's passing. I worked with him at Capstone and he was such a great guy to be around, always so positive and optimistic.
Matt Doeden
Coworker
April 5, 2021
Our condolences on the passing of your father.
We pray for peace and comfort for you and your loved ones at this difficult time.
Jerome and Victoria Muzart
Friend
April 4, 2021
So sorry for your loss. Jerry was a great guy to work with @ the Times Review in LaCrosse. RIP
Steve Kiedrowski
Coworker
April 3, 2021
We were so grateful to join you and your family, Vivian, for the service ‘Remembering Jerry’. Ethan, you have spoken so sincerely, deeply (and with humor) — everything you’ve said we echo with - Amen, that was Jerry!

We have cherished memories of times that our families shared at Roncalli Newman, work with you, Vivian, and times that Ed worked at your south side home in La Crosse. Jerry was so generous (a legacy) in his communication. I treasure the recent notes he sent via Franciscan Spirituality Center’s Reflections from the Center. We grieve his passing; we are grateful for the grace and spirit of his life. We’re sending this note with loving friendship, peace and prayers. Extra hugs to you, Vivian.
Ed & Mary Peters
Friend
April 3, 2021
I met Jerry my first day in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, 40 years ago this September. Linda and I had been married about a month; Jerry had not yet met Vivian. A year later, Jerry was at our apartment in Minneapolis to welcome our twins home from the hospital, and a year or so after that, we attended Jerry and Vivian’s wedding. Over the following decades, we stayed close, exchanging letters and visiting whenever we could, given the distance between La Crosse and Chicago. We watched each other’s children grow up and grandchildren arrive, and in recent years talked of spending time together in retirement. Jerry was as fine a person as we’ve ever known—intelligent, reflective, funny, honest as sunlight, and supremely largehearted. He had a tremendous capacity for happiness, which he found in his family, in books, in work, in his little Mississippi River town, and in his faith. Our broken hearts go out to Vivian and his family. It’s impossible to imagine a future without Jerry in it.
Lance Wilcox
Friend
April 3, 2021
God Bless the Ruff family. Fantastic childhood neighbors and role models. Jerry was always kind to the younger neighborhood kids and I always coveted his Willis Reed poster in his cool teen room.
Craig Gross
Neighbor
April 3, 2021
Jerry was one of the kindest most sincere person on this earth! He was a colleague of mine at Saint Mary's Press and for a few years by boss and mentor. He had a way to always make you feel like he is really listening to what you are saying and giving you the best advice from his heart. He will be missed by so many and has made a big impact in this world. Too young! God must have needed you! RIP Jerry! God bless his family! Penny Koehler.
Penny Koehler
Coworker
April 2, 2021
I am a colleague and friend of Jerry's at Saint Mary's Press (LERI). As fellow wordsmiths and runners, Jerry and I shared much in common and every visit with him was blessed. He is among the most thoughtful, kind, and friendly people I have ever known. His departure from this life was a huge shock, too soon and too sudden, and I grieve with his family. My heart goes out to Vivian and his children and they will all be in my thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks.
Brian Singer-Towns
Friend
April 2, 2021
I knew Jerry when we were both teaching English at Viterbo in the 1980s and Ethan was a small boy. Jerry was an excellent writer and deeply interested in literature. I helped Jerry and Viv move from their apartment near St. Francis Hospital to their new home on the south side of La Crosse. Over the years, after he left Viterbo, I crossed paths with Jerry on campus half a dozen times and he'd share news of his professional career and growing family. Jerry was one of those people you're always glad to see because he was such a nice guy, always friendly and smiling (just as he is in his thumbnail photo). I'm stunned and saddened to learn that Jerry (seven years younger than I) has passed away at such a young age. I know Jerry will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him. My heartfelt condolences to Viv and their four children.
Lyon Evans
Friend
April 2, 2021
I am a member of the Tuesday morning discussion group that Jerry was such a huge part of. To me he was the prime example of living as Jesus would have wanted. I will miss him every time I attend a meeting.
dennis priebe
Friend
April 2, 2021
It was my great pleasure to know Jerry from our years at Roncalli Newman Center, and through his wife who was a colleague of mine at Gundersen. They were a warm and welcoming couple, and Jerry always stopped whatever he was doing to greet me and converse with me. He made me feel as if in those moments, there was nothing else going on in the world except for our conversation. The blessing of his presence at church and in the community will be missed forever.
Chrisanne McGraw
Acquaintance
April 1, 2021
Chris & Clare, sorry to hear about your Brother. Brothers are so special and it seems that Jerry was very special! Peace & blessings in Christ, Linda & Ron
Linda Hall Kuehl
April 1, 2021
I had the privilege of knowing and working with Jerry at the Diocese of La Crosse. He impressed me as a man of faith, integrity, and humor. He had a positive impact on my life. Condolences to family and loved ones.
Bob Lecheler
April 1, 2021
Jerry was an amazing human being. He was also a thoughtful, caring, and generous editor, helping me to write and to publish. Even more, he was a true friend. I will miss finding an Irish pub with him and other friends while at conferences at cities around the country. I will miss his posts on Facebook of his excursions in fields and along the water. I will miss his occasional messages about various topics. And I know that I am not alone. He made a significant impact in this world and in the lives of many. May he rest in eternal peace.
Tobias Winright
Friend
April 1, 2021
My deepest condolences to the family. I worked with Jerry very briefly at St Marys Press but his kindness and grace had a lasting impression on me as we stayed connected through LinkedIn. I very recently exchanged a congratulatory message with him on his childrens book with the promise of picking one up for my girls. I am so saddened by learning of his passing.
Megan van rooyen
Coworker
March 31, 2021
My condolences to Viv, brother Chris, and all the Ruff family. I worked with Jerry when he was editor of "The Times Review." I know he will be greatly missed. May God grant him the reward of his labors and the consolation of faith to his family.
Monsignor Michael Gorman
Coworker
March 31, 2021
Jerry, we will miss your warm smile. We met you when Jonathan and Greg were in boy scouts together. They were in 2nd grade and have been friends ever since. Jonathan looked up to you and he thought highly of you like so many people do. We find peace in knowing you're in a better place. We will miss you and praying for your family in this difficult time. Steve and Shirley
Shirley Ringdahl
Friend
March 31, 2021
My expression of sympathy to Jerry's family. I got to know Jerry during his years at the "Times Review" at the Diocese of La Crosse. Jerry always had a friendly smile and a warm greeting. Even now, after all the years since the Times Review days, if our paths crossed at a grocery store or some event, that same smile and warm greeting would cause us to stop and pause for a moment to reminisce. Jerry was a good and blest man. May he enter into the Lord's rest and eternal light!
Deacon Richard Sage
March 31, 2021
I was blessed to have Jerry as my boss and friend. He was a true gentleman and an awesome person to work with. My deepest condolences to Viv, his children, grandchildren and other family members.
Pamela Willer
Coworker
March 31, 2021
Vivian and family I am so sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers are with you
Pam Foegen
Friend
March 31, 2021
It was always a pleasure to spend time with Jerry. He was friendly and caring. He will be missed by many!!
John Withers
March 31, 2021
I only had the pleasure of working with Jerry for a short time at Saint Mary's Press but was immediately struck by his enthusiasm, warmth, and kindness. He made a point of coming over to converse with me at my first employee meeting back at SMP. My sincerest sympathies to the family and friends he loved so much.
Rebecca Gochanour
Coworker
March 31, 2021
To all of Jerry’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. What a wonderful life Jerry lived. It was always a good time when we went to Fargo.
Mike and Jim Lutz
Family
March 31, 2021
Like so many - my heart paused and asked, How can this be? I spoke to Jerry not long before he took his final journey to the Lord. He talked so warmly about family and how much he was enjoying life and advised, "Live life to the fullest every single day...enjoy relationships and tell those you love that you love them." How profoundly poignant that conversation...I shall miss you wisdom, your kindness, your genuine care and friendship. Blessings to the entire Ruff family.
PJ Thompson
Friend
March 31, 2021
My thoughts and love are with you, Vivian, and with your family.
Susan Fossen
March 31, 2021
What a great guy. I'm so sorry for your loss Vivian.
Rosemary Bodnar
March 31, 2021
What a wonderful spirit! I enjoyed working with and getting to know Jerry. He will be missed. Sending my thoughts and prayers to Vivian and the whole Ruff family.
Cathy ESPY
Coworker
March 31, 2021
Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Ginny Storm
Family
March 31, 2021
Joe and I are sad to hear of Jerry’s passing and offer our sympathies. He was a kind and gentle man who always had a smile for those he met. We send a special virtual hug to Vivian and Greg.
Sue and Joe Kuhn
Coworker
March 31, 2021
Jerry was my ymca swimming friend.....although he was quite a “splasher” everyone loved Jerry.....I also connected with him years ago substitute teaching his twin boys.....so sorry and sad....much love to all❤
Kay Murphy
Friend
March 31, 2021
You left an empty chair at our Tuesday morning group, but your spirit will be there every Tuesday. Peace
David Johnston
March 30, 2021
We are so very sorry for your sudden loss. We enjoyed meeting you a few times at Moon Tunes and at the farm and campfire. Keeping you in our prayers.
Teresa (Justin) and Todd Nedegaard
Friend
March 30, 2021
Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with your family. Alice often talked about what an awesome father and grandfather Jerry was. Those memories are priceless. May you feel God's presence, grace, and strength during these difficult times and may the knowledge that you will see him again give you peace.
Jan & Sara Halbur
March 30, 2021
I worked with Jerry at Capstone and stayed in contact with him after he left. He was such a sincere and kind man. An oasis from the chaos that surrounds us in our daily lives. I enjoyed being in his presence and he always had a new idea to share! Peace to the Ruff family
Matt Keller
Coworker
March 30, 2021