Evelyn (Montgomery) RUKA
Posted By: Sarah Thorson Little (email)
Date: 10/16/2018 at 12:24:10
Evelyn (Montgomery) RUKA
September 15, 1926 ---- October 2, 2018
Evelyn Ruka is Irish by birth, but left the Emerald Isle with her English mother as an infant to join her father in [Goodell] Iowa. He had gone there to study veterinary medicine but fell in love with the land, bought a farm, and settled down to stay. Evelyn has happy memories of her rural life there and of the “boy down the road” — about whom more will be said later. Fast forward now to her enrollment in Drake University in Des Moines, where she majored in radio and theater. After graduation she was hired by radio station WOC in Davenport, Iowa, to be a broadcaster and to write scripts and commercials. The station soon realized that she had a talent for interviewing people, and she was given her own show called “My Home or Yours.” Davenport was a good place for that, she says, because it was a “must” stop for politicians running for office who were eager to get air time. After 5 years at WOC she was lured to station WDZ in Decatur, Illinois, where she continued to use her interviewing skills. One day she got word that a young senator from Massachusetts who had just announced his candidacy for President was going to hold a press conference in Decatur, but there would be no separate interviews. She called one of her contacts who was a Democratic bigwig in southern Illinois to see if he could somehow pull strings and arrange an interview for her anyway. He did, and Evelyn taped a 13-minute conversation with John F. Kennedy that WDZ listeners heard the next day. “He was so easy to talk with,” she recalls, “telling about his family and his vision for America’s future.”
Evelyn spent 16 years at WDZ and then moved on to work for the state of Illinois, recruiting college graduates for positions in the state government and serving on a commission addressing the needs of children with developmental disabilities. Over the years she kept in touch occasionally with the “boy down the road” as he went through World War II as a B-17 pilot flying bombing missions over Germany and later married, had three children, and moved to Boulder, where he became a planner for the city. When he was widowed, his sister urged him to contact Evelyn. He did, and -- you guessed it—their youthful affection resumed, and they were married in 1978. Sadly, their life together was cut short when Lyle Ruka had a heart attack and died in 1982, just two months after he had retired. Evelyn continued to live in their home until September 2011, when she moved to Frasier Meadows. Her three stepchildren, all of whom live in California, had urged her to move there to be closer to them. “I went out and tried it,” she says, “but evenight in bed all I could think of was the Flatirons. I had fallen in love with Boulder. Finally I said, ‘kids, I’d love to be where you are, but I’ve got to go back.’ It was the bravest thing I ever did in my life and the smartest thing.”
Among Evelyn’s varied interests is studying military history, especially that of the 8 the Air Force in which Lyle served and the Royal Air Force, where many of her mother’s relatives served during World War II. She has traveled to the UK several times to visit wartime sites there, including the airfield where Lyle’s B-17 unit was based. Evelyn’s interview with JFK is only one of many stories she has to tell about her days in radio. If you get a chance, ask her about the lingerie commercial she had to read on the air without seeing it ahead of time.
by Phil Waggener
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