Tucker, Ruffin, Sr. honored as ‘Hometown Heroes’

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: March 6, 2019 | 5:15 p.m.

DINWIDDIE – The evening session of the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors’ monthly meetings are usually the venue for special events that bring the community together and this month was no exception as a pair of well-known members of the Dinwiddie community were honored during the county’s annual “Hometown Heroes” ceremony.

The “Hometown Heroes” celebration is part of the county’s recognition of Black History Month, serving to honor those who have a significant contribution in one or more of the following categories: Government, Law Enforcement, Education, Public Safety, Faith Community, Business, Advancement of Civil Rights, Agriculture, or Community Service from the African-American community within Dinwiddie County. 

This year, Elizabeth Mabry Tucker and Ralph Daniel Ruffin, Sr. joined the distinguished list of past honorees when they were joined by friends and family at the county boardroom last Tuesday to be formally recognized for the service to the county.

Tucker was born on December 16, 1941, the oldest of three children, all daughters, born to Elvin and Otelia Mabry. The Mabry’s owned a farm on Route 40 in Dinwiddie County, approximately 9 miles West of Stony Creek; where they grew peanuts, tobacco, corn, and cotton.

She attended Masontown Elementary School in Dinwiddie County and graduated from Southside High School in 1960. During her senior year, Elizabeth met Reynold Tucker. Mr. Tucker was a native of Dinwiddie County and was a professional bricklayer and carpenter.

After graduation, she worked with her father on the farm. She remembers driving the mules as they pulled the lime sower along the rows of peanuts. Tucker also remembers when Hurricane Hazel blew through and knocked down all of their peanut shocks, which had to be rebuilt quickly in order to save the crop. Farming was hard work, but very rewarding.

Her first job away from the farm was with Virginia Linen in nearby Petersburg. While working at Virginia Linen, she learned that the principal of Southside High School was in need of a secretary/bookkeeper. 

As a child, Elizabeth wanted to own a store and then wanted to be a nurse; but since she always enjoyed bookkeeping, which led her to apply for the job. She began working at Southside High School in 1964. Over the years, this position fulfilled both of her childhood ambitions. She kept the books for the school and was the “storekeeper” or go-to person when students needed items for an assignment or project. She was also a “nurse” to many students who came to her with minor ailments and/or complaints. Students loved her and she loved them.

The Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors joins Elizabeth Tucker and Ralph Ruffin for a photo after honoring the pair as part of the annual Hometown Heroes celebration. (Dinwiddie County)

She would go on to marry Reynold Tucker in 1965 and the couple made their home in Dinwiddie County. They raised two daughters, Chevone and Allison; and one son, Monte.

During her career, Tucker worked under 11 principals, but never left the building where she started. Following integration, Southside High School became Dinwiddie County Junior High School, and eventually Dinwiddie Middle School. She would retire in 2010 after 46 years of employment.

Tucker has nothing but fond memories of her career. She was working during the “Freedom of Choice” years and recalls that full integration took place in 1969, while she was on maternity leave. Despite what was happening in many schools across the nation, she doesn’t recall any significant issues in her building. Tucker shared that she “enjoyed working with all students.”

She remembers when bookkeeping was done through a “double-entry” system, which was time-consuming but efficient. When the County transitioned to the “One Write” system, Tucker remembers thinking it was much easier. When the directive came that they would begin using the computer-based “Manatee” system, she said she got nervous. This was entirely different from the pen and ledger systems she was accustomed to, and she wasn’t sure she could do it. Tucker took the advice that she regularly gave to students and her own children, “If you set your mind to it, that’s what you’ll do.” She attended a one-day training on the new system and instantly knew that this was going to be a good move.

She was known for her impeccable and meticulous bookkeeping. She remembers an auditor, at one point, telling her principal that “Everything here is roses”.

Tucker has been a member of Little Bethel Baptist Church since she was 11-years-old. Her pastor is Rev. David L. Banks, Sr. She sings in the Senior Choir, serves as Secretary of the Usher Ministry and helps coordinate programs and activities for the youth, Children’s Day and Christmas. Ms. Tucker continues to enjoy preparing the church bulletins each Sunday, as she has done for the past 45 years.

In addition, Tucker is a member of the Southside High School Alumni Association and currently serves as Treasurer. After all these years, she’s still keeping the books!

In her free time, she enjoys her computer and has plans to re-engage with the Golden Living Nursing Home, where she volunteered in the past. She enjoys talking with people and helping whenever and wherever she is able.

Tucker is especially proud of her three grandchildren: Nichelle, Sa’myah, and Grayson; as well as her two great-grandchildren: Aniya and Jaiden.

The second “Hometown Hero” honored last week was Ralph Daniel Ruffin, was born on August 16, 1944, and the fourth of ten children born to Clarine and William Ruffin, Jr.

While Ruffin grew up in Petersburg, he had ties to Dinwiddie County, which is where he met the future Mrs. Ruffin. Miss Emma J. Harris was just 13-years-old when the two met, and her parents told Ralph she was too young to date. He waited patiently until she graduated from Southside High School. After a brief courtship, they married in 1964 and are about to celebrate their 55th anniversary.

Initially living in Petersburg, the couple moved to Dinwiddie when it was time for their oldest child, Terry Ruffin (now deceased), to enter school. In 1969, Ruffin enlisted in the United States Army. He began his career as a combat engineer but transitioned into food service. He served a total of 16 years. During his career, he was assigned to Fort Bragg, South Carolina; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Drum, New York; Leighton Barracks, Germany; and finally Fort Lee, Virginia.

Two of the Ruffin’s three children are graduates of Dinwiddie County High School, and their youngest daughter, Donna Jean, graduated from Department of Defense Dependents Schools, in Wurtzburg, Germany, and now lives in Petersburg. Ralph Ruffin, Jr. joined the United States Army after graduation, and following his retirement, lives in Puerto Rico.

Following his honorable discharge from the United States Army, Mr. Ralph Ruffin has been busy. He has been a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Ford, VA for more than 40 years. He was ordained as a Deacon in 1975 and is currently Chairperson of the Trustee Ministry, and the Safety/Security Ministry.

“Papa Ruffin”, as he is called by many, has been a member of the Dinwiddie County Sports Club for the past 12 years, and currently serves as president. He has been a member of the Dinwiddie County Cowbell Boosters for the past 6 years and currently serves as vice president. Ralph has been a member of the Dinwiddie County Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) for the past 10 years, and he has spent the past 18 years as a volunteer with Dinwiddie County Public Schools. 

Special recognition has been bestowed upon him by Southside Elementary, Dinwiddie Middle School, Dinwiddie Junior High School, and Dinwiddie High School.

Ruffin was awarded a plaque from Dinwiddie High School in 2018 for “Appreciation for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Dinwiddie Community.” Coach Billy Mills also presented Ruffin with a playoff game ball in October of 2018. 

In 2017, he was presented the “12th Man Award” by Coach Mills. During his remarks, Mills stated “This award is given to the person who has been most influential to the Dinwiddie County High School football program during the past year. This individual is not directly affiliated with the day-to-day operations of the football program, but their contributions behind the scenes made a difference, and without their support, the team would not have had the success we have enjoyed.”

Ruffin is a longtime member and Chaplain, of the Virginia Birdies Golf Club. This club is dedicated to supporting local charitable endeavors through purposeful golfing events. The Virginia Birdies support a variety of youth programs in the area, as well as the Virginia Baptist Children’s Home in Petersburg, The Salvation Army, and local families in need.

In addition, Ruffin has committed most of his adult life to serving our country with dignity and honor, and in his retirement works tirelessly serving the Dinwiddie County community with this same loyalty and disregard for self. He is a mentor to youth, and an example for all to follow.

Ruffin and Tucker join last year’s honorees Hattie Walker, Harold Walker, Legert Hamilton, and Ruby Evans. 

In 2017, Doretha Moody, Dr. Marguerita Ragsdale and Thomas Hooker were recognized, with others honorees in year’s past including  Jesse Blackwell, Jr. Pauline Bonner, Ed Bracey, Yvonne Myrick, Geraldine Spicely, Elnora Perry, Rev. Herbert Anderson, Gloria Jones and former Sheriff Samuel Shands.

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