Letter to Tradewinds: Amos

Amos and Andy announcing in the bandstand during a past Ruby Rutnik Memorial Softball tournament.

It is hard not to think of Amos whenever I write about the softball tournament, established in Ruby’s name after her death in 1996. As the elder son he looked after both Ruby and Sophie and loved them dearly. His sisters were in awe of his fearless exploits and dangerous behavior. To them he was a hero who was there whenever needed, a big brother who could fix their bikes or help them climb a tree.

If I could live those early days again I wouldn’t change a thing, my memories are so full of sunshine and happiness. His life would change forever at the moment the news reached us that Ruby was gone from us forever.

I could tell he was angry with himself for not being there to protect her and for the first time in his life he had to feel the pain of loss. It is a pain that is physical as well as emotional, staying with you your entire life.

As a family we struggled to understand why and how this could happen to our very special Ruby, and for Amos it was hardest to express his grief in words. Life moved on but not the same, for Ruby was the rock of the family, her calm demeanor steadied us all.

We all felt the ache of loss that settles in your heart and never a day went by that her absence wasn’t mourned by one of us or all. For Amos that ache ended on the side of the Fish Bay road not far from his home.

The tournament is a family effort and Amos was a major part of every tournament. In the early days he was called upon many times to solve problems with the field, the bandstand, the concession, and then take up the play-by-play commentary as my relief.

It was Amos and Andy when it came to making the last 15 tournaments so much fun and successful. With his mother and sister Sophie in the stands selling T-shirts and in the early days chicken legs and Johnnycakes, he enthusiastically promoted all that we had to offer.

He loved to watch the girls play and by the end of the tournament had perfected the pronunciation of all their names, no easy task for the unique original style popular in today’s culture. He was serious about his announcing and was able to list all the accomplishments of each team and player while on the road to the championship. His commitment was personal.

Ruby’s name was invoked regularly in his play by play, her name echoed around the ball field, he wanted no one to forget his sister and why they were there. Each tournament had its own personality and as the games progressed the competitive nature of the girls was nurtured by Amos’s partiality for the heroic efforts of the underdog.

While promoting the importance of winning, he also understood the effort it takes to win and the pride you feel in giving your best while losing. The excitement was contagious, the ball field became the center of the universe, the fans and players were completely engaged as if all ceased to exist outside of the Ruby diamond.

All of our tournaments have been a battle to the end; no one could leave their seats until the final out was made. When Amos announced the winner of the coveted championship honors, the winning girls would erupt into a spontaneous leap to the heavens where Ruby surely resides.

We will miss Amos this year, his death so sudden and sad, however, we are comforted by knowing that Ruby has her big brother now and forever.

– Andy Rutnik