Rex Rucker, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant and Jeep supervisor who was known in the Point Place and Shoreland communities for racing to the aid of boaters in distress, died Monday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. He was 71.
The cause of death was not known, his wife, Bevan, said. He developed complications after successful surgery to remove a lung tumor.
Mr. Rucker, from the late 1980s through much of the 1990s, had a Hovercraft he voluntarily took on rescues along the Ottawa and Maumee rivers and in Lake Erie. He often was accompanied by his wife, who had her own craft. They frequently were the first to respond to calls for help.
“[I'm] just a boater who knew that somebody needed help and someday it might be me,” Mr. Rucker told The Blade in 1992.
It was part of his Marine Corps training, longtime friend Joe Simon said.
“He was there for his men, and it followed up in his life once he got out that he took care of people and liked to take care of people,” Mr. Simon said.
Mr. Rucker often worked with the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department on rescues and helped arrange for the department to get its own Hovercraft.
He trained Washington Township and Brownstown Township, Michigan, rescue crews in Hovercraft operation.
He was honored by four Point Place yacht clubs in June, 1992 - River View Yacht Club, of which he was a member; Ottawa River Yacht Club; Jolly Roger Sailing Club, and Point Place Boat Club - during the annual Ole Man of the River celebration.
Mr. Rucker, of Washington Township, formerly had a 34-foot SeaRay, which he took cruising on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the Detroit River - and on rescues whenever he heard distress calls on his marine radio.
Mr. Rucker grew up in Point Place and attended Point Place elementary and junior high schools. A 23-year Marine Corps veteran, he retired as a gunnery sergeant in 1970. He served in Korea, Vietnam, and Lebanon.
He formerly was a salesman for the Western-Southern Life Insurance Co. He was a Jeep worker for about 10 years, retiring in 1986 as a supervisor.
Mr. Rucker gave up flying across the water in his Hovercraft and boating in the late 1990s because of health problems. Instead, he and his wife traveled the country in a motor home.
He was a former member of the Ottawa River Improvement Committee. He was an honorary member of the Ottawa River Yacht Club and the Washington Township fire department.
Surviving are his wife, Bevan, whom he married May 2, 1986; daughters, Claudia “Sandi” Murray and Jody Rucker, and two grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in the David R. Jasin Mortuary, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today. International Satin Gavel/River View Yacht Club services will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the mortuary.
The family requests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.