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Published: Friday, 3/9/2012

Harlie A. Rucker, Jr., 1921-2012: Boilermaker believed firmly in local union


Harlie A. Rucker, Jr., a boilermaker by trade who as business manager of his union local won agreement for one of the first training centers funded by members and employers, died Tuesday in Ebeid Hospice Residence, Sylvania. He was 90.

He was in declining health and had respiratory problems, his stepson Greg Shapiro said. Mr. Rucker, formerly of South Toledo, lived about eight months in the Franciscan Care Center. Before that he lived in assisted living at Oakleaf Village, where he and his late wife, Inez, moved after they married in 2001.

He was business manager of Local Lodge 85, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, an elected position. His last term ended in 1981 and he retired from the trade, said Dennis Lark, who retired as the local's training director.

Mr. Rucker was present on Labor Day, 2004, when Local 85 dedicated its newly renovated facility as the Harlie "Red" Rucker Training Center.

"Harlie was a pretty humble guy, but it was definitely a great honor," his stepson said.

The local was one of the first to fund such a training center, Mr. Lark said.

The training center was created in 1976 through the contract negotiated by Mr. Rucker and Local 85 with an employer bargaining committee. Both sides agreed to a jointly funded trust to pay for upgrading journeymen's skills and training apprentices.

At the table, Mr. Rucker was a formidable match for employers.

"Harlie was never boisterous or demonstrative," Mr. Lark said. "He always did his homework and had facts, figures, and reasons behind it. The contractors always found it hard not to meet him at least halfway."

Off the job, he bought only U.S.-made products.

"He truly believed in the union," his son, Jeff, said.

Mr. Rucker during his early years as a boilermaker divided his time between Toledo and his native Tennessee. Toledo became home after he and his first wife married. For a time in the 1960s, he was an inspector of the construction trades for the state of Ohio, Mr. Lark said.

He was born Aug. 21, 1921, in Glen Alice, Tenn., to Ethel Mae and Harlie Rucker. After high school, he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and did construction work in Oregon.

A longtime banjo player, he and a neighbor -- and banjo student of his -- traveled to regional bluegrass festivals in the 1970s, performing as "Boilermaker Red & Wade." He also played with the Toledo Dulcimer Club. With the Christian music ministry, Side-by-Side, he played at nursing homes.

He was a member of Hea- therdowns Church of the Brethren, where he was baptized at 50, and attended Calvary Assembly of God.

His first wife, Jennie "DeeDee" Rucker, died in 1977. He and Flora Inez Shapiro -- a widow and his longtime next-door neighbor -- married Nov. 24, 2001. She died Sept. 5, 2008.

Surviving are his son, Jeffrey; stepsons, Greg, Myron, and Norm Shapiro, and six step-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Walter Funeral Home, where visitation will begin at 9 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the Heatherdowns Church of the Brethren or Habitat for Humanity.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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