Ron Rust, a man with a quiet nature that belies his gigantic stature, retired after 41 years at the Alexandria Boys and Girls Club last week.
If youre asking yourself who Ron Rust is, youre probably not alone, but to the hundreds if not thousands of boys and girls who have passed through the clubs doors since 1970, the answer is a bit different. Mr. Rust has been a constant, strong male presence. A role model to most and in some cases, a lifesaver.
Mr. Rust has devoted most of his adult life to helping children, mainly poor minorities, navigate the turbulent road through adolescence. He could have made more money, probably a lot more, doing something else. Instead, he chose to stay at the Boys and Girls Club, weathering good financial times and bad, shakeups in board membership and several different club directors.
Why single out one man this way in an editorial? It is because Mr. Rust is exemplary not only for himself, but for what he represents: the unsung heroes among us.
In a city like Alexandria, our local elected officials are our area celebrities. Most of us recognize them when we see them in the grocery store or at public events. We are very aware of their many contributions to our city. Others, such as the leaders of our local churches and synagogues, or leading business owners or philanthropists, also enjoy a very visible stature in the community.
But for every council member or prominent business owner, there are probably five or 10 Ron Rusts who toil for years in obscurity, teaching our children, working at our health clinics, putting out fires, picking up trash and catching criminals. They are the very backbone of our community. Their contributions arent measured by the public works projects built during their tenure, but by the individual lives they touch and improve along the way.
Far too often, the Ron Rusts have their short moment of recognition only when they retire. Far too often, as the song goes, you dont know what youve got till its gone. While those at the Boys and Girls Club have long valued Mr. Rusts contributions, it is nice to see him get the recognition he deserves from the rest of Alexandria, even if it comes as he is leaving. Alexandrias City Council honored Mr. Rust on June 3 with a proclamation saying, among other things, that Mr. Russ (as he is sometimes called) has literally touched the lives of thousands of young people over the past 41 years and Club alumni return to the facility on a regular basis to check in and let him know whats been going on in their lives.
As we say thank you and well done to Mr. Rust, we should also look around and recognize the other unsung heroes in our midst: the church member who cooks the Wednesday night dinner week in and week out, the board member who tirelessly waters and fertilizes the flowers on King Street that we all enjoy or the PTL chief who spends countless hours in support of their school. Rather than wait for someone to labor for 41 years, or until they step aside, lets stop and express our gratitude now, bit by bit, along the way.
Who are the unsung heroes in your life?