Nov 17, 2015

Robert "Bob" Alfred Rutledge (May 23, 1925 - September 16, 2015)

A few weeks ago, the following notice appeared on the Obituary pages of several Alabama newspapers: “Robert A. "Bob" Rutledge, 90, Huntsville, passed away on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.Mr. Rutledge was a retired Major, U.S. Army. He served as a combat engineer in the South Pacific during WWII, an infantryman during the Korean War, and as an Ordnance Missile Officer from 1956 to 1966. He was a mental health worker in Huntsville and retired from Crestwood Hospital. Bob was a faithful member of First Christian Church in Huntsville. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bobbie Rutledge and a son, R. Michael Rutledge. He is survived by his daughters, Theresa Kay Furnas of St. Petersburg, FL and Melody R. Arrington of Fayetteville, TN; two granddaughters, Callie Rachel Arrington of Murfreesboro, TN and Olivia Grace Arrington of Fayetteville, TN. Bob was a devoted and loving husband and father. He spent his life serving and helping others, throughout his military and mental health careers. He is deeply missed by many. The family will receive friends Sunday, October 25th from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. at Berryhill Funeral Home followed by a 4:00 memorial service. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to First Christian Church. Berryhill Funeral Home is assisting the family.”

There were no pictures, no fancy embellishments, just a simple notice.  What the notice didn’t inform its readers was the nature of Mr. Rutledge’s “mental health” career.  I knew Bob Rutledge as an alcohol and drug counselor in the special A&D unit at Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville, AL.  I first met him the day I was admitted to a 28-day treatment program in early August, 1983.  And I didn’t particularly care for him at that time.

Bob would describe himself as a “recovering drunk and dope fiend.”  He didn’t mince words.  He had 28 days to convince the people under his care that they had a serious problem but that there was a solution.  He had been a hopeless chronic drunk and dope addict whose life had been transformed by a simple program of recovery built around twelve simple steps.  Bob’s way of communicating this crucial message was to be absolutely, brutally frank.  He never danced around the facts.  Any patient in that unit who tried to make excuses for his behavior or minimize the notion of being dependent on their drug of choice was instantly confronted with Bob Rutledge’s reality lesson.  He was a relentless bearer of truth and a powerful example for all of us “drunks and dope fiends.”

Bob became my friend and counselor during that 28-day stay.  Later, I would occasionally run into him at various AA meetings around town and sometimes at church.  He always had a kind word and the demeanor of a man at total peace with himself.  His life, in spite of some turbulence in his early years, became a life very well spent indeed.  Bob, I’ll see you at the Meeting in the Sky, my friend.

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