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Carmichael Times

Park Lauds Sharon Ruffner’s Legacy

Mar 19, 2024 10:17AM ● By Susan Skinner, photo by Susan Skinner
Sharon Ruffner was a dynamo volunteer behind the annual Dinner in the Park fundraiser for the Carmichael Parks Foundation. She is pictured at the 2022 event with veteran Foundation directors Ken Hall (left) and Gary Hursh.

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - Carmichael Park district has designated an area of Carmichael Park, including a future water play facility, as Sharon Ruffner Plaza. The announcement was cheered by more than 500 supporters during a farewell to the late community activist last week.

Ruffner died in January after a year-long battle with cancer. She was 63. Ruffner’s career included 36 years in technical support for the San Juan School district and a lifetime of community volunteerism.

She served the nonprofit Carmichael Parks Foundation for nine years. Ruffner was a dynamic force behind fundraisers that assisted a cash-strapped agency’s outreach with scholarships for children of low-income families. Park amenities and equipment also benefited.

The plaza will eventually include a water play feature (in place of the old swimming pool) and a skate park. The two facilities will operate adjacent to Veterans Hall on Grant Avenue.

“The naming is appropriate,” said Carmichael Recreation and Park District advisory board director Joel Levine. “Sharon taught water aerobics in the old pool. More recently, she led yoga and fitness classes in Veterans Hall. Her enthusiasm inspired people to follow in her wake, whatever she was doing.

“She never stopped in her passion for enriching the lives of others. Her mission was to make the community a better, more inclusive place.” To the end, Ruffner convened Zoom meetings and concluded personal mail with a mantra from behavioralist Arthur Chan: “Diversity is a fact. Equity is a choice. Inclusion is an action. Belonging is an outcome.” 

Said Levine, “I keep that in mind every day. Sharon wanted everybody to have opportunities. Her effort was never about her; it was what she could do for others. We all had such joy in our interactions with her.”

With standing room only at the La Sierra Center, Ruffner’s memorial was a feast of music and memories. Speakers included her husband of 42 years, Bob Ruffner, who said his wife “gave me the confidence and strength to get to where I am today. With Sharon in my life,” he continued, “there was never a day I didn’t look forward to.”

Friends, former workmates and members of organizations she befriended lauded her legacy of service.

“Sharon was a woman who exuded joy and love at every turn,” said Carmichael Parks Foundation director Ken Hall. “She lit up every room she entered.”

Hall announced that all future children’s scholarships awarded by the Carmichael Parks Foundation will be called Sharon Ruffner Scholarships.

“During her years on the Carmichael Parks Foundation, we raised $117,000, to fund 2,200 scholarships,” Hall said. “Without her leadership and enthusiasm, those contributions could never have happened. Over her short life, she touched so many hearts.”

Signage for the Sharon Ruffner Plaza will be erected in Carmichael Park this summer.