A humble retiree from San Angelo,Texas,received a Jefferson Award for Public Service Tuesday for his volunteer work.
Donald E. Ruckelshausen,a 65-year-old retired Air Force master sergeant and fireman,was one of 57 “unsung heroes” to receive the American Institute for Public Service's Jefferson Award. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,former U.S. Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard created the awards in 1972.
Ruckelshausen said he did not know the awards existed and was amazed when he heard he was receiving one.
“It really surprised me when I found out what this award really entails,” he said.
Although he said the primary reason for getting involved was just to stay active,the amount of volunteer work he has done has continued to grow.
After retiring and moving to San Angelo,Ruckelshausen began driving veterans to the veteran's hospital in Big Spring,Texas. Since then he has volunteered as Emergency Services Coordinator for the Concho Valley Branch of the American Red Cross and as a driver education teacher for AARP.
Last year Ruckeshausen logged more than 1,500 hours of volunteer work,including two weeks working with tornado victims in Missouri.
“It was like a war zone,” he said of some of the destruction. “It's always tough when you have to deal with people that have gone through a disaster.”
Ruckelshausen was born in Herron Lake,Minn. Before he graduated from high school,he was in the Army National Guard. He later joined the Navy and served in Vietnam. He worked in the fire prevention unit for the Air Force before becoming a fireman in California.
Although Ruckelshausen said he felt humbled by how much some of the other Jefferson Award recipients did for their communities,his wife,Marie,said the honor was something her husband definitely deserved.
“He gives a lot of time and effort,” she said.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,R-Texas,congratulated Ruckelshausen and other Texas recipients on their awards at a Capitol Hill reception. Winners also attended a dinner Tuesday evening and a ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Wednesday.
“I'm just blown away by what these people do for their communities,” Hutchison said.
The San Angelo Standard-Times nominated Ruckelshausen for the award.