Joe Ruelle: A Tribute

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director

With great sadness, I write this week in tribute to Joe Ruelle, who died on Monday evening, having served as facilities manager at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for twenty years. Joe succumbed to an aggressive, inoperable brain tumor, diagnosed just eleven weeks ago.

Joe was one of a kind. He didn’t just “serve” as facilities manager, he embraced every aspect of the position and the Museum. He also valued his co-workers – as we valued him – always going above and beyond to ensure our safety not only at the Museum, but also at our homes and while on the road.

During the winter, he famously “preached” the safest route for navigating the snow-covered, steep roads surrounding the Museum. And, more often than not, if you left the building after Joe on a snowy day, you’d find your car brushed off, compliments of a very thoughtful Joe.

Joe was the Museum’s go-to guy for just about any question or need, whether it was something not quite right in an office – making mine warm enough in the winter, for example – or lighting in a gallery that needed to be adjusted.

Joe took great pride in everything he did; his standards were unimpeachable and if that meant working into the evening or throughout the weekend in advance of a new exhibition, that’s exactly what he did.

Over the last dozen years, Art Park – the Woodson Art Museum’s family interactive gallery – became one of Joe’s passions. He treasured the creativity it afforded him and especially enjoyed working with the Museum’s educators and other staff on the interactives lovingly designed and crafted in-house to complement each new exhibition. He thrived on visitor feedback, watching families interact in Art Park and relishing their artworks left behind.

Joe’s footprints and handprints – literal and figurative – can be found throughout the Museum and its grounds. He had a profound impact on all of us and on the Museum, too. We will miss his cheerful “good mornings,” his wry humor, and his genuine care and quest for excellence that helped propel the Museum ever forward and to greater success.

We celebrate Joe Ruelle, (1955-2017), his life cut short.


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