Celebrating Rocklin's 'Renaissance Man'

Roy Ruhkala given prestigious Melvin Jones Award from Lions Club International
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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If Rocklin had royalty, Roy Ruhkala would surely be king. Ruhkala has lived all of his 92 years in Rocklin, most as an extremely involved citizen,and he has meticulous memories to prove it. The ninth child of Matt and Eva Ruhkala, a family associated with the granite industry for more than a century, Ruhkala is hooked on civic history. He soaked up the stories of old time residents starting when he was just 14 years old, hanging out near the former auto court on Rocklin Road and Pacific Street. ?You?d see all the old timers there,? recalled Ruhkala, who remembers the small talk surrounding a street bench. ?If I had any questions about history I?d ask them. They discussed the happenings of the early 1900s and even before that. I was building a museum in my own mind.? Those were stories that inspired a young Ruhkala to take notes, collect photos, and plan the Rocklin History Museum. Ruhkala?s dedication to the City of Rocklin recently earned him the prestigious Lions Club International Melvin Jones Fellowship Award for decades of community service. ?Roy has dedicated his whole life to Rocklin and done everything that could be done in Rocklin,? said Max Best, first vce pesident of the Rocklin Lions Club. ?He?s been the mayor, a school board member. He is the founding member of the Rocklin Historical Society. He was the first Boy Scoutmaster for Rocklin. The first street signs were developed by the Lions Club through Roy and the first baseball diamond in Rocklin ? Roy was in the middle of all that.? Ruhkala?s interest in Rocklin history began as a schoolboy at Rocklin Elementary. ?I was a good speller in school and my favorite subject was arithmetic,? he chuckled. ?I won the championship for multiples of eight. In those days we had to say them backwards.? Ruhkala was raised on hard work, a love of the outdoors, and learning how to manage life with 10 brothers and sisters. ?We got along real good,? he shared. ?Mother and Dad wouldn?t let us fight. They had one rule. We had to kiss and make up before we went to bed every night.? The patriarch, Matt Ruhkala, spent Sundays as the town?s Lutheran minister and said services in Finnish. Ruhkala remembers his father ministering to local families on the weekends and working to grow his quarry business during the week. ?My dad would get up in the mornings about 6 o?clock and prepare the rolled oats so my mom could get a little more sleep,? he remembered. ?The one thing my parents taught us was honesty all the way through life. That was so important that you didn?t try to snow anybody. We were called to volunteer for anything if someone needed help. Mother used to feed the bums who got off the train that stopped in Rocklin. She would always make sure there was food for them.? After daily homework and chores, including milking the family cows and delivering quarts of milk around town, Ruhkala enjoyed hunting quail, dove, and jack rabbits in the countryside that now makes up suburbia from Pacific Street to Interstate 80. ?In those days jack rabbits were very good eating and we?d also bring home ducks or mud hens,? he explained. After graduation from Roseville High School, Ruhkala?s parents encouraged him, as they did all of their children, to get a college degree. Ruhkala chose to major in Forestry at Oregon State and met his wife, the late Peggy Ruhkala, at the freshman boarding house. After college and service as a captain in the U.S. Army, Ruhkala owned a construction business in Oregon, and then happily returned to the Rocklin granite industry in the 50s. He remembers saving the city during a drought year with the use of his backyard quarry. ?The city used my quarry hole as a water supply and hauled in tank loads of water to save the trees they had planted,? he recalled. His family?s quarry business, begun in 1893, had grown to supply granite to locations all over California, certifying Rocklin as the granite city of the west. Today Ruhkala works to bring Rocklin?s rich history to the forefront with the encouragement of his five children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, many who live alongside him in the original Ruhkala family neighborhood. ?Winning the Melvin Jones Award means I?ve been hanging around Lions for 57 years,? he joked. ?I suppose the one goal I have is to get people who live away from downtown, farther over the hill, to mesh a little bit with us. There are a lot of people who still don?t know where Rocklin really came from. History is important.? _______ Ruhkala Family?s Leadership and Legacy * Ruhkala Quarries * Ruhkala Granite and Marble Co, Inc. * Rocklin Historical Society * Rocklin History Museum * Ruhkala Road * Ruhkala Park * Ruhkala Elementary School