Red Rutherford named Tri-Citian of Year
This story was published March 24, 2002, Tri-City Herald
By Wendy Culverwell and Mary Hopkin Herald staff writers
Red Rutherford, a longtime Tri-City businessman and civic leader, on Saturday night was named 2002 Tri-Citian of the Year, the community’s top honor.
A tearful Rutherford was joined at the podium with more than 20 members of his family, who donned Charlie Chaplin-style glasses and fake noses as they entered the banquet room at the Pasco Doubletree Hotel.
Some of the family members had traveled from as far away as Louisiana and Oklahoma to watch Rutherford receive the award.
“We’ve spent the last four hours in a hotel room telling jokes,” said his son, Randy Rutherford of Kennewick.
As last year’s winner, Fran Forgette, introduced the award, Red Rutherford secretly was hoping someone he was close to would be named.
“In the back of my mind I was hoping my wife, Sally, would get it because she volunteers so much time at the hospital,” he said. “She is the real winner.”
Forgette described Rutherford as always having a joke to share, a hand to shake and a friend to make. But receiving the award left Rutherford, 77, with little to say.
“The joke was on me tonight,” Rutherford said. “This will be the first time you see me at a meeting without a story. You have left me speechless.”
The award is given annually by Tri-City-area Rotarians to a Tri-Citian who demonstrates “service beyond self.”
Kennewick residents George Jones and Cathy Merrill nominated the 54-year Tri-Citian for his history of service to the community and to children in particular.
The Rutherfords moved to the Tri-Cities in 1948.
Rutherford worked as a self-employed developer who established a number of businesses, such as Red’s Trailer Mart and Sun Meadows Mobile Home Park. He was a leader in the mobile home industry for more than half a century, serving as president of the Washington State Mobile Home Dealers, the Columbia Basin chapter of the Mobile Home Dealers and the Washington Mobile Home Parks Association.
On the civic front, he worked to start the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and is a longtime backer of Meals on Wheels, Tri-City Prep, Special Olympics, the Humane Society, Boy Scouts, St. Joseph’s Church, Shriners and a host of other causes.
His efforts to launch the cancer center brought a bit of public attention in 1993, when he bought a new Ford Taurus and donated it for an auction to raise money to build the clinic.
At the time, Rutherford said he had planned to donate to the $2.1 million project. By giving an attention-grabbing item to the auction, his original donation was multiplied many times over through the magic of ticket sales. The raffle raised nearly $90,000.
Rutherford was back in public view two years ago when Washington State Patrol Trooper James Saunders was shot and killed in Pasco during a routine traffic stop. Rutherford engineered a similar raffle to raise money that paid for 22 cameras installed in patrol cars throughout the area.
He participates in the Kennewick Kiwanis Club’s annual gift program to ensure children at Bailie’s Memorial Youth Ranch have gifts on Christmas. As a Kiwanian, he helped push development of the Family Fishing Pond at the east end of Columbia Park.
His volunteer work extends to the Benton-Franklin County Fair, where, for 30 years, he has coordinated ticket sales and organized volunteers who work at the entry gates and sell tickets.
He also established the Kennewick Kiwanis Foundation, which raises money to support youth-oriented projects. The Rutherford Scholarship is named for him and his wife.
Rutherford is an active woodworker and bird lover as well. He built more than 200 birdhouses used in Ephrata to increase the area bluebird population.