Wednesday, April 23, 2014

True Lovers of Apalachicola

John and Judy Rutz volunteers extraordinaire - Photo by Gail Johnson

The story I'm about to share is about two extraordinary people, John Rutz and his lovely wife Judy, both retired from Dunnellon, a small city in Marion County Florida.

Over the last two years very few people have demonstrated an abundance of love for the Apalachicola community as John and Judy Rutz.

The couple's story starts with their annual commute in an RV from their home in Dunnellon to the Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park over on St. George Island.

For a total of 15 years the couple made the annual trip to labor as volunteers during spring and summer in the Florida State Park Service resident volunteer program.  During those months they helped maintain the grounds of the park while living inside their RV in space provided by the Park Service.

Riverfront Park - Photo by Brenda Benjamin

Later they were reassigned to the Orman House Historic State Park here in Apalachicola, where they volunteered for an additional 5 years taking immaculate care of the grounds at the Orman House, Veterans Memorial Plaza and Chapman Botanical Garden, while contining to stay inside their RV on space leased to the state by the city.

After a total of 20 years laboring as volunteers in the Florida Park Service resident volunteer program, the couple was eventually required to age out of the program to make way for new volunteers.

Faced with the stark reality of having to give up what they loved doing most, the couple met with City Administrator, Betty Webb and agreed to assist the city as volunteers to maintain its parks while continuing to make their annual trek to and from Dunnellon.

"While we are here we actually pay someone to care for our lawn back at home so we can stay here and help out because we love this place", said John Rutz.

Lafayette Park - Photo by Brenda Benjamin

Last October the Rutz's became permanent residents of Franklin County after selling their home in Dunnellon and settled over in the Eastpoint community to be closer to their labor of love.

Receiving  zero compensation from the city for their efforts the Rutz's deserve special recognition, as they can be seen busy around and about the Apalachicola community cheerfully laboring over the grounds at Riverfront Park, Lafayette Park, Marks Memorial, and City Hall, and they do it all out of a genuine love for Apalachicola.

"John and Judy are two of the city’s most dedicated, hardworking volunteers. The exceptional landscaping we enjoy today at Riverfront Park, Lafayette Park and Mark’s Memorial is a reflection of the pride John and Judy continue to bestow upon our communityWe are so thankful to have them with us", said city administrator Betty Webb.  

Marks Memorial - Photo by Brenda Benjamin

"A lot of people stop by to say thanks and that it all looks good, but what I like to see most is for them to pull up their sleeves and help", Judy Rutz said.

Yes, more volunteers like the Rutz’s are definitely needed and always welcome to help make Apalachicola’s entire park system vibrant and more inviting. The Rutz's through their actions and deeds have amply demonstrated a true love for Apalachicola and so can others.

To really get involved and to make a difference contact Betty Webb, City Administrator at (850) 653-9319 or send email to her attention at or simply stop by City Hall at 1 Avenue E, in Historic Apalachicola.

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