'QUITE A LADY' - Prescott's Elisabeth Ruffner honored at Elks Opera House
PRESCOTT - From a box seat just above the main stage at the Elks Opera House, a key local preservation project credited to her vision and persistence, Elisabeth Ruffner laughed and clapped as she was serenaded for 70 years of devotion to her city and state.
One of the musical performers at the full house event - "Elisabeth: A Celebration and a Tribute to Elisabeth Ruffner' - wrote a song in her honor, one that nudged people to do as the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame Living Legacy has always done: serve others.
"There's a woman I know that just can't sit still...If there's a wrong, she'll make it right; No task too big or small, no end in sight...I find myself saying somebody should do something about that. Then I realized I am somebody...' are part of the lyrics to a tune penned for Ruffner by singer/songwriter Dennis "Doc' Garvey who performed it live.
Another singer and lifelong family friend Gail Steiger shared how Ruffner has always been a role model and example to others with her unquenchable spirit. To be in her presence is a privilege, her poise and purpose infusing others with a power that will "last a while,' he described.
A Prescott resident since she moved from her native Cincinnati, Ohio in 1940, the writer, historian and patron of the arts and humanities, Ruffner this year was one of the first two Living Legacy inductees to the state Women's Hall of Fame. The other inductee is retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Steiger performed a song titled "The Cape' about a young girl "full of piss and vinegar' who dons a cape because she is "pretty sure she can fly...one of those who knows life is a leap of faith.'
"She did not know she couldn't fly, so she did,' said the crooner of the tune that he noted could well have been written about Ruffner.
For two hours on Thursday, March 19, Ruffner was feted in style, with a combination of musical entertainment, storytelling, poetry and historic lore.
Her grandson, Paul Ruffner, an accomplished tenor saxophonist, left the entire audience laughing with a story about when his poised, patient grandmother was pushed to pique.
As it goes, Ruffner was driving Paul and his younger sister, and the two were squabbling over skin-to-skin contact in the backseat. Angered beyond what either recalled ever happening before, Ruffner blurted out a warning the now 28-year-old has never forgotten.
"If you two don't shut up, I'm going to drive this car right off a cliff,' Paul recalled.
To a loud burst of laughter, the born-blind musician said he opted for the moment of good-humored irreverence for three reasons: "Revenge is a dish best served cold..there are no cliffs around anywhere... and for the next 15 minutes, I'm in the driver's seat.'
A common refrain from almost all comers, be they event producers, program brochure advertisers, her family and close friends and fellow civic leaders, was this: "She's quite a lady.'
"Elisabeth Ruffner has dedicated her life to making things better and brighter for future generations,' wrote event producer Cecelia Jernegan of The Friends of Elisabeth Ruffner in the program brochure.
"I can only say that from a personal perspective, my contribution in helping produce this magical night has been a humbling experience. I was enriched each day to learn and listen from a lady of grace, insight, vision and the charm we could all only wish to achieve.'
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