Legacy of Mac Ruske remembered by Grand Lake Rotary
On Oct. 10, the Grand Lake Rotary Club held its annual banquet honoring the selected Citizens of the Year.
Also recognized by the Grand Lake Rotary Club that night was recently deceased Mac Ruske, a central figure in the Grand Lake area.
Grand County Veteran Service Officer Duane Dailey spoke that night about Mac, his service to his country during WW II, and his legacy in the community of Grand Lake.
Before his work helping to start the Grand Lake Fire Dept. and before he pioneered snowmobiling there, Mac was a veteran, one of the Greatest Generation.
According to Mac’s son Chris, Mac joined the military shortly after America’s entrance in WW II, enlisting in 1942. He became a ski trooper and was part of the 10th Mountain Division, training at Camp Hale outside of Leadville near Red Cliff, Colo.
He was initially stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Mac had previously worked on the water-diversion tunnel between Grand Lake and Estes Park; loading dynamite and working as a driller. Because of this experience Mac was initially made into a demolitions expert.
His technical capabilities and skill with mechanical things quickly became evident. His duty station moved from the Aleutians to the warmer climates of the South Pacific where he took on the role of mechanic.
After WWII ended Mac returned home and began working in construction.
But it wasn’t long before the outdoors were calling again.
His years of experience in the high Rockies coupled with his ski troop training for WWII made Mac something of an expert in mountain survival. He was hired by Strategic Air Command in Colorado Springs to teach winter and cold weather survival as a civilian. During his years training survival skills he traveled to the Arctic on several occasions to learn survival skills from native groups.
Eventually though the Strategic Air Command Survival School was moved from Colorado Springs to Reno, Nev., prompting Mac and his wife to relocate their young family back to Grand Lake.
After moving back to Grand County Mac quickly became involved in establishing the Grand Lake Fire Dept. where he served for 53 years in various capacities.
Mac was also one of the founders of the Sunrise Slalom event.
The Sunrise Slalom was an annual skiing event conducted in Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Lake. Participants would travel into the park up Trail Ridge Road and then ski down into the valley. In the afternoons participants would head back down to Grand Lake for a bit of water skiing.
Mac went on, with his snowmobile dealership, to develop Grand Lake into the snowmobiling capital of Colorado.
Mac was the first local Commodore of the Grand Lake Yacht Club and left his mark throughout the county during his years in construction.
Mac Rusk passed away on July 27, 2014. As the Rotary Club of Grand Lake reminds us, he may be gone but he is not forgotten.
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