This year’s recently announced Golden Deeds honoree, the recipient of an award meant to recognize outstanding voluntarism in the Baton Rouge area, is a representative of a great generation who helped to change Louisiana in many ways.
When he returned from the Korean War, about the first thing Gerard Ruth did was help others in Baton Rouge. He was among the young men — in those days, there was also a ladies’ auxiliary group — who were part of a generational change in leadership after World War II and Korea; the Jaycees were a network that had political as well as social implications in Louisiana in the 1950s and 1960s.
Many of the “Young Turks,” the new legislators who combated the old Louisiana system in the State Capitol, came from the Jaycees and won support from their peers around the state.
For Ruth, his path was in business, a career of 70 years that was informed by the ethic of community service among his peers. In 1959, Ruth helped found the Red Stick Kiwanis Club. His first project for the group involved organizing ticket sales for an appearance of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy at the Capital House Hotel.
JFK, of course, was another young man from the wars who would be a symbol of generational change in the country.
Ruth’s projects across the decades were numerous: From installing seat belts — they did not come with cars in the 1950s — to protect children, to giving a happy Christmas to underprivileged youngsters, he enriched the city that is proud to call him one of our own.
He will be honored at a Nov. 12 banquet presented by the Inter-Civic Council and The Advocate. Congratulations to Gerard Ruth. We need another generation like his.