BUDA, Texas (KXAN) — Gene Ruf, a Buda man, who retired from the U.S. Army as a Master Sergeant, turned 108 years old on Wednesday and celebrated with his family days later.
Ruf was born in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in New York on April 19, 1909.
A flu epidemic killed Ruf’s parents and siblings when he was a child. Ruf ended up in an orphanage and never attended middle school and high school. Ruf earned a GED and after leaving the Army, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Trinity University in San Antonio.
After retiring from the military, Ruf became a school counselor and ROTC instructor at a high school in San Antonio.
At 108, Ruf is full of stories going back to his childhood. As a young boy, Ruf met baseball great Babe Ruth, who caught him playing hookie from school with a friend.
“We played hookie… and we promised to Babe, he asked us if we played hookie. And we said yes, so he put his hands on us and said, ‘Promise me you’ll never play hookie again’ and we didn’t.”
Ruf’s family says he was also one of the first Americans to walk on the Great Wall of China and one of the first inside communist Russia as well.
Another time, he tried to smuggle of bottle of Stolichnaya (known as “Stoli”) vodka, only to have it break on the floor.
Later in life, Ruf used to bowl with his wife every Thursday. He only had a perfect score of 300 once, but Ruf says it was computer error. He had nine strikes, but on his tenth frame he admits he only knocked down nine pins.
When asked the secret to a long life, Ruf has two pieces of advice: “Keep your nose clean” and “don’t take any wooden nickels.” But he later called that lame, recommending people have a good attitude and “don’t be crabby.”