A termite walks into an English pub and asks, “Where’s the bartender?” ”
That’s the joke John Woods thinks of when he thinks of the humor and intelligence that defined longtime tennis player and group organizer Bob Ruff. Woods sat in the front row as Ruff walked over to start a tennis association meeting.
“As soon as he finished this joke, he immediately started the meeting and everyone, including myself, was like, ‘What? “” said Woods. âEvery 30 seconds or a minute someone would laugh out loud. The people would just be sitting there thinking, thinking, thinking. It shows his sense of humor and his mastery of audiences and everything in between.
Ruff died on July 13 at the age of 93. He was well known on Longboat Key for organizing the Ruff Group, a group of about 40 guys who played in the Tennis Gardens of the Longboat Key Club. The group started in the 1980s and Ruff used to host doubles matches six days a week, although it has dropped to three days a week in recent years.
âI’ve known and played in Bob’s band for 20 years,â said longtime friend Bob Simmons. âA few years ago a few of us tried to figure out how many tennis matches Bob had hostedâ¦ We had over 30,000 games he hosted at the Longboat Key Club. For some of us who run our own games today, we think it’s amazing, so we re-cranked the numbers and each time we got over 30,000 games.
Ruff’s daughter Kay Ruff said her father never used a spreadsheet to keep track of the calendar – it was all in her head. He was known to many as the Professor and Kay said he was the smartest man she knew. They couldn’t get through a vacation meal without Ruff entering the encyclopedia to verify one fact or another, and he even corrected a Trivial Pursuit question once. He read constantly and always had two televisions in each room: one for the Tennis Channel and one for the news or other programs.
âWe used to call (the kitchen) Command Central,â Kay said. “Once he discovered computers and it was basically an encyclopedia for him, that was it.”
This sharp brain applied to the comings and goings of tennis as well as to the comings and goings of conversation. Ruff was known for his quick jokes, especially since he watched the games he prepared. Simmons remembered that he would call players with a few sweet teases for missteps or missed calls. As sharp and quick as his mind is, he remembers his old tennis buddies more than anything else as a gentleman.
âThe tenderness Dad felt,â Kay Ruff said. âTo have such a smart guy who really appreciated the wit and liked the repartee of the conversation, he really had a tender heart. To be able to give it like he does, he has to be able to take it, and oh, do they give it to him.
Tennis was his whole life and he loved to win. Ruff became a tennis player after forming a team in his high school and devoted himself to the game for the rest of his life, bringing tennis clothes on work trips and shoveling snow off the courts in the dead of winter in his home. from Indiana so he can get into a game.
âHe performed in the band as well, but he was such a gentleman (that) if someone showed up or if there were too many people, he would be the first to sit down,â said Woods. “He has arranged every pitch and every game and that’s a job in itselfâ¦ He did it wonderfully with his low-key way.”
And if you didn’t understand Ruff’s joke, it might help: where’s the bartender?
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