Some people live their lives in such a way as to make me want to live a better life.
Rudy Burgess was one of those people.
Rudy, who was 84, died on Monday. The Altavista community is less because of his death, but more because of the life he lived.
Rudy was a public servant. He started serving on the Altavista Town Council in 1972 and did so for 40 years. For 28 of those years, he was the town mayor. He didn't run for re-election in 2012.
Until his retirement in 1993, he also worked a full-time day job.
Rudy was not a politician. He loved Altavista, and he served the people of Altavista.
He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Altavista in 2003 after Larry and I got married. He and Larry knew each other—Rudy knew everyone—and I quickly learned that this was a man who always spoke when he saw you, always had something funny to say, and always wanted to hear your opinions about things.
After I started working for the Altavista Journal, I had more opportunities to see Rudy. Though I didn’t usually cover Altavista government, I’d see him at events and discovered more evidence of the love Rudy had for his community.
In 2010, I had the privilege of interviewing Rudy and his wife for an article about long-lasting marriages I did for a special bridal section. At that time, they had been married for 60 years. I loved hearing their stories about their married life and the ways they worked together as a team. They stayed busy with children, church, work and Town Council, but they never forgot each other.
I reread that story yesterday and looked through some photos the newspaper has collected of Rudy over the years. I remembered the joke he used to tell people, that every time his picture was used in the Journal, he was paid $500.
Service to others, dedication to one’s work, love for one’s family, faith—Rudy personified these values. And thinking about him and his life makes me want to do better.
God bless Rudy Burgess.
I don’t have any photos of Rudy that I can share on my blog, but here are some photos of the town he loved. They were taken mostly on a Sunday morning, so there’s not a lot of traffic.
Who makes you want to live a better life?