Robert W. Ruark passed away with family by his side on December 1, 2018. Bob was born on October 2, 1930 in Greencastle, Indiana to parents Ola and Dallas C. Ruark. He played basketball and graduated from Dana high school, served in the army during the Korean War, and then graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue University. Bob began his career as a young engineer at Link Belt Co. in Chicago, Illinois. It was there that Bob was interviewed by Asst. personnel director Virginia Erickson, who would become his wife. Bob and Virginia (and the two daughters that arrived) followed his quick career path to companies in Aurora Illinois; Wake Forest, North Carolina; and Clintonville, Wisconsin before Bob decided to start his own company. Mr. Churchill Williams and other leaders in Oelwein, Iowa convinced Bob that Oelwein was the right place to start his new conveyor business, ABCO Engineering.
ABCO began in 1967, just in time to be completely leveled by the category 5 tornado that hit Oelwein on May 15, 1968, and for a while conveyor equipment was built in the open on the giant concrete slab that was left. With the help of many friends and the Oelwein Industrial Development Corporation, ABCO was rebuilt in a new location and began to flourish. On October 19, 1975, ABCO was destroyed by a devastating fire, but Bob again rebuilt the company. During ABCO’s peak years, Bob added recycling and farm machinery divisions and shipped product all over the world. Bob was an enthusiastic small business advocate and enjoyed serving on the Executive Board of Directors of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, President of Iowan’s for Right To Work, and as Chairman of the Oelwein Airport Commission.
Bob had a lifelong obsession with airplanes and flying, which culminated in his obtaining his private pilots license. He purchased a small airplane and delighted in giving free plane rides to anyone old or young. He was an excellent pilot, and his family concluded that it was likely safer to ride with him in a plane than in his car. He was part owner of a glider and eventually purchased an “ultralight” aircraft (basically a lawnmower with wings). The lawnmower in the sky could be seen and heard around Oelwein until Bob finally crashed it in a plowed field. He walked away with only a minor ankle injury. Bob’s sense of fun and adventure (and his sense of humor) continued for all of his 88 years.
Bob’s health had been in decline and in February of 2015 he “retired” from his beloved company after 47 years. The family is grateful to Doug Bryan, who continues Bob’s legacy as ABCO Manufacturing.
After his wife Virginia passed, Bob moved to Texas in the summer of 2016. He happily joined in on the family fun… boating and fishing, “seniorcize” exercise classes at the YMCA, monthly gospel music concerts at the Liberty Opry, and of course feeding the large flock of peacocks that showed up at his home every day. The family is so very grateful for the many sweet people who have surrounded him with love and community.
Bob leaves cherished memories with daughter and son-in law Trish and Bill King of Crosby Texas and daughter and son-in-law Ginny and John Wessels of Lawrence, Kansas; granddaughters Kelsey King Ryan (Andrew) of Houston, Texas, Jenica Wessels Harwood (Sam) of Lawrence, Kirsten King Gay (Trent) of Houston; Grandsons Joe Wessels (Brittany) of Lawrence, Sam Wessels of Portland, Oregon, and Thomas King (Jai Morgan) of Sydney, Australia. He was “Grandpa Bob” to Jean Dutko Veryns and Jackie Dutko Secrest. He was “Great” to great-grandsons Bennett, Beckham, and Bowen Harwood and great-granddaughter Elliot Gay.
Bob is survived by his brother Gerald (Cork) and sister-in-law Ann (Nan) of Indianapolis, Indiana, and sister-in-law Barb Anderson of Longmeadow, Ma.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia, and stepson, John Dutko.
A celebration of life will be held at Geilenfeld Funeral Home on Friday, December 14that 11:00am with reception to follow. The family requests that you come to share your special memories of Bob.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Stanley Union Church or the MDS Foundation.