As a child, Ricky Rudine had a morning routine: before breakfast, he would rescue all the living insects from the swimming pool in his back yard and set them free. He would feed the dead ones to his collection of twenty-seven snakes, then “exercise” the snakes by letting them swim in the pool while he floated nearby. His parents and siblings thought what he did was odd, but his enthusiasm and curiosity won them over. “There were so many things he’d do that would drive us crazy,” says Lois Rudine, his mother. “But he just came into the world with a love of nature.”

Ricky Rudine also came into the world with a heart defect. Lois could put her hand on his chest and feel, almost hear, the blood gurgling inefficiently through her son’s heart. In May 1967. Ricky died while having a water balloon fight with neighbor children. He was thirteen. “I’m seventy-two years old,” says Ricky’s father Francis, “and I’ve lost a lot of loved ones. But Ricky never seemed to leave. He’s the only one I’ve felt like that about.”

Francis, who founded United Construction Company, had made a small fortune building sewage treatment plants and roads and bridges. Two years ago, Lois and Francis began thinking about what they would do with the money. Then they hit upon the idea: they would create a Ricky Rudine Memorial Fund. They chose the Communities Foundation of Texas (formerly the Community Chest of Texas) to administer the fund because it had a reputation of following donor wishes very closely. The purpose of the fund is to help underprivileged children reach their potential, but there is no mandatory means to that end; whether the recipients are individuals or organizations, they are free to devise their own creative solutions. So, with $2.5 million from the Rudines’ savings, the Richard A. “Ricky” Rudine Memorial Endowment Fund was created. The fund’s first year was 1988.

Helping underprivileged kids and remembering Ricky are not the only two reasons the Rudine family decided to create this fund. “It’s satisfying to do something with all the work of your life,” Lois says. And Fran-cine Rudine, Ricky’s sister, adds. “To some extent, it’s a healing thing for the whole family. It’s built on a memory, but it’s a moving forward, not a looking back.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.