Jim Krumel: Rufus helped kids make their moms proud


By Jim Krumel - [email protected]



UPCOMING COLUMNS

Jim Krumel will be retiring on Dec. 31st after working 28 years at The Lima News, the last 20 as editor. He looks back at some of the people and events the newspaper covered during that time.

Rufus Brassell was one of those rare people who was known simply by his first name. In its own way, that was a badge of honor.

He was a boxer from the south side of Lima who reached the big time in the 1960s and ’70s, training under the legendary Angelo Dundee in boxing’s heyday. He mixed it up with George Foreman and Jerry Quarry in the same year and once sparred with Muhammad Ali.

Rufus never won that world championship belt that so many boxers covet, though he did win twice as many bouts than he lost, finishing a 15-year career with an 18-7 record. What makes his story memorable is he became a champion in something much more difficult and rewarding than the fight game.

Rufus was a role model.

When his boxing career ended in 1978, Rufus turned to his real love — working with youth. He was a coach, a friend and sometimes a minister.

A story in The Lima News in 1998 talked about the HOPE boxing club Rufus started.

HOPE was an acronym that stood for “Helping Other People Excel.” It wasn’t just boxing skills Rufus taught at the gym in Lima’s old Jefferson School. He wanted those in the club to be good citizens and students. He worried about them, saying the south side can sometimes be a tough place to grow up.

One of the HOPE program’s requirements was that children had to have all of their homework done before they could step into the ring.

“I believe that some of these kids have been or are on the edge of gang activity. I’m trying to teach them the importance of education,” Rufus said.

He had no illusions about trying to turn every kid into a professional boxer.

“The pro game is nasty. There’s some good elements, but there’s people using people,” he would say.

Instead, Rufus just wanted “his kids” to be the type of people in whom their mothers would be proud.

“The kids need support from responsible parties in the community,” Rufus said. “They need involved people who are willing to get out and spend a little time with them. Some of these kids have pretty much become a generation that nobody knows.”

When news of his death filtered into the newsroom on a Friday morning in February 2004, there was genuine shock and sorrow among the associates who knew Rufus.

Lou Gehrig’s disease knocked out this respected man at the age of 60.

A Lima legend was gone.

It was hard to believe, and many in the newsroom spent a chunk of that morning telling stories about Rufus.

The sad thing, however, was none of us knew Rufus was sick, suffering from that terrible disease for a year and a half. If we had known, we would have made the time to honor him. But you get the feeling Rufus didn’t care about honors. After hanging up his gloves, Rufus was more about helping others, not receiving pats on the back.

Diane Pacetti, a fellow journalist, once told me about her “Rule of Two.”

Rule 1: There are winners, and there are losers.

Rule 2: There are good people, and there are bad people.

If you can keep straight who is who, you’ll do well in this business, she said.

Of course, that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Then again, sometimes it is really easy.

That was the case with Rufus Brassell.

ROSES AND THORNS: What is a barber’s chair doing in the rose garden?

Rose: To Pierce Austin, who grew up in Lima, and for the past 25 years has been a celebrity barber in Los Angeles. He met Will Smith on the set of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in 1995 and became Smith’s personal barber. They have remained a team for 25 movies.

Rose: To Jeff Monfort, a resident of the village of Mendon in Mercer County, who grew up in Lima and still has family here. He had his idea featured in the nationally syndicated Pluggers comic strip on Sunday, Nov. 28.

Rose: To Charlotte Teders, of Ottawa. The 9-year-old girl created a business that sells slip-knot bracelets. As of last week, she raised $1,130, donating the money to buy gifts for foster children in Putnam County.

Rose: To PJ McGuire, a 1997 graduate of Shawnee High School who appeared Thursday night on the USA Network program’s “America’s Big Dream.” McGuire invented the Wrapperoo, a T-shirt hair drying towel that doubles as a styling cap.

Thorn: What Ada police called “a huge marijuana growing operation” was discovered after a fire destroyed a three-unit apartment house, leaving several families homeless and putting one person in the hospital.

PARTING SHOT: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room on earth.” —Muhammad Ali

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By Jim Krumel

[email protected]

UPCOMING COLUMNS

Jim Krumel will be retiring on Dec. 31st after working 28 years at The Lima News, the last 20 as editor. He looks back at some of the people and events the newspaper covered during that time.

Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.

Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.

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