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Mudding buddies lose friend with big heart

By Jessica Rodrigo
June 11, 2014 at 1:11 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.

Jerome Ruddick rides his Ford Bronco. The 47-year-old Victoria man died Saturday of injuries he suffered during an ATV accident.

Shrimpfest will never be the same for Team Froggy.

The Victoria mudding team lost a teammate Saturday when Jerome Ruddick, 47, of Victoria, died in an ATV accident.

Ruddick's funeral was Wednesday.

"We went every year," said Arlen Heibel, 50, about attending Shrimpfest.

It was a tradition they started after he and his wife, Donell, 47, met Ruddick at the Victoria off-road track about five years ago. Ruddick was an announcer there, and their love of mudding is what brought them together.

Arlen Heibel, of Victoria, owns Precision Accessory, and he said Ruddick spent much of his free time at the shop. If he wasn't at the shop, Ruddick was at Heibel's home making them laugh or cooking on the grill.

Whenever there was a special occasion with friends, Ruddick was the first to volunteer for the job of grill master, said Heibel.

"He was so proud of his barbecue," he said, smiling.

Ruddick worked at Warm Springs as a clinical liaison and also did some deejaying on the side. His DJ service was named Breaking Silence. It was a love of music that gave Ruddick the idea for the entertainment business, and it was a perfect fit.

"He never liked to be alone. He was a people person," said Arlen Heibel.

About 90 percent of the time, said George Collins, Ruddick wore camouflage shirts when they were together. Ruddick also owned a Ford Bronco painted the same way, with a helmet to match, that he named Camo Toe. Friends, teammates and family knew him as a joker and a comedian, he said.

"When he walked into a room, he was the life of the party," Collins, of Aransas Pass, said.

Ruddick and his circle of friends spent a lot of time together outdoors because that's what he lived for, said Arlen Heibel. Hunting, fishing, going to the beach and working on his trucks or ATVs were Ruddick's favorite pastimes.

"He loved anything to do with mud. He loved to play in the mud," Donell Heibel said.

No one was allowed to be sad around him, she said, because he didn't like to see people that way. His mission was always to make people smile or cheer them up when they weren't having a good day, she said, and he had a big smile and bright blue eyes that would brighten anyone's day.

"He was always so happy," Donell Heibel said.

Anytime he walked through the doors of Precision Accessory, she said, he would throw the door open and yell, "What's up, Buttercup?"

That was just one of his many one-liners, said Nancy Collins.

"He just kinda grew on you," she said, laughing.

Arlen Heibel said Ruddick had a passion for trucks. He loved building things and working on trucks.

"Team Froggy will continue on, but he'll be with us any time we race or work on a truck," he said.

Ruddick is survived by his daughters, Samantha and her husband, Chris Lemmons, of Lolita, and Kelly Ruddick, of Bloomington; son, John Lee Ruddick, of Bloomington; father, Edward R. Ruddick; a sister, Ginger Pullin, of Victoria; a brother, Edward Ray Ruddick Jr., of LaVernia; two grandchildren and his fiancee, Renae Adams, of Victoria.

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