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Philanthropist donates $2 million

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 10, 2009
  • East County
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As the local statistics for humanitarian needs like food and shelter increase, there is one cloud with a huge silver lining hovering over Manatee County.

The $2.1 million “silver lining” is thanks to Lawrence E. Ruf, a retired accountant who passed away Oct. 28, 2008, leaving support to many nonprofit agencies, according to Marilyn Howard, executive director of the Manatee Community Foundation.

The local organizations that will benefit include Stillpoint House of Prayer, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, We Care of Manatee, Mana-sota Lighthouse for the Blind, Arthritis Foundation, Tidewell Hospice and Palliative Care, Hope Family Services, State College of Florida (Manatee campus for a community dental hygiene program) and the Manatee Community Foundation (for scholarships at Manatee Technical Institute and grant making).

“Mr. Ruf was a very private individual who retired from Exxon Corporation," Howard said. "He and his wife were benevolent all their lives and sponsored many charities focusing on basic human needs. Both Larry and his late wife, Marian, had so many charitable organizations that they wanted to support, it was a natural fit to work through the community foundation.”

The Rufs were members of the Legacy Society of the Manatee Community Foundation. Prior to this latest donation, the Rufs contributed a significant gift to the Community Foundation Capital Fund, assisting in the construction of the Foundation’s first permanent location at 3103 Manatee Ave. W.

“The Legacy Society allows us to honor people who have left a gift or intend to create a fund during their lifetime,” Howard said. “It is nice to be able to say thank you and show the community’s appreciation while donors are still with us.”

Jim Alderman was Mr. Ruf’s financial adviser and friend for more than two decades. He explains many Americans share misconceptions about whom or how a millionaire appears to the rest of us.

“The millionaires next door are very similar to Mr. Ruf," he said. "They are thrifty people and not ostentatious. You would never know they were a millionaire. Mr. Ruf dressed nicely but he was never decked out in alligator shoes or expensive jewelry. ... His house was a nice house but not the nicest house in the neighborhood.”

But when the time came for Mr. Ruf to move to a facility providing more care, even his nice home in the  Riverview Landings  was sold to benefit local charities. Proceeds of the sale benefitted Our Daily Bread and Cardinal Mooney High School.

Local attorney Greg Porges assisted the Rufs in planning their estate.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ruf did not have any children and both were interested in providing help to the less fortunate through charitable giving," Porges said. "Mr. Ruf was a frugal person during his lifetime which permitted him to accumulate a sizeable estate allowing generosity to those in need.”

Mr. Ruf’s nephew, Leslie Francus of New York, recalls his uncle started with Exxon as an office boy, attended night classes and worked his way up the ladder. He also remembers his uncle routinely drove an inexpensive car.

“He never had a spiffy car; he always drove the cheapest car you could get,” he said. “He was a quiet person who didn’t toot his own horn."