By Charles Moseley and Deborah Mizell
Father, Husband, Scholar, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Community Leader, John Ruffin, Jr. wore many hats and wore them all well.
There is an adage that goes, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you better be able to walk the walk.”
Throughout his life John Ruffin, Jr. was a living example of one who talked the talk but more importantly walked the walk.
Although, Ruffin may have been soft-spoken and displayed a mild mannered demeaner, he had no problem getting his point across. He was a man who said what meant and meant what he said.
He spent his formative years in Moncure, North Carolina, before attending Morgan State University-Baltimore, Maryland where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1963. He then earned a master’s degree in Marketing and Industrial Relations from Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1970.
After his college graduation, he began working in the retail grocery industry, starting in a managerial program, taking on stints in New York, New Jersey and eventually with Pantry Pride in South Florida over a 20-year period.
Ruffin, along with partner Reese Marshall, Esq., purchased WRBD AM 1470 in 1986, making it the first Black owned radio station in South Florida’s history. WRBD became ‘The Community Radio Station’ providing outreach to various segments of the Black communities in Broward County.
The joy of his life was his family, his wife of more than forty years, Dottie, their son Johnathan and daughter Jehan, and the additional joy of three grandchildren.
Their partnership grew throughout the years even to the extent of owning several business ventures including a store at the Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International Airport named the Paradies Airport Shop. This venture expanded internationally over 30 years, reaching globally as far as Ghana, Africa.
“In business it’s sometimes hard to find men of principles and integrity John had them both,” said Levi Henry, Jr. Publisher Emeritus.
Tyson Jones has been friends with John Ruffin for over 35 years. “We met in Fort Lauderdale and realized we had some of the same friends in Virginia. John was a very personal close friend of mind and Kappa fraternity brothers and prayer brothers. He always said,” Opportunities were always available – you just have to be prepared when they avail themselves.”
Horace Hord, Jr states, “When we first met, I did not feel the synergy of a friendship. However, God had extremely specific plans for our relationship.
John and I served on the Board of Trustees for Florida Memorial University, where I first became aware of his special skill set. Most importantly his love for people and an uncommon desire to help others in need, especially high school, and college students.
John Ruffin was a man, full of wisdom and knowledge, which he was always willing to share with others. He had a unique way of listening to garner exactly what was being said to him for truly effective communication. Although opinionated, he could be swayed to be on one accord for the best outcome.
To best describe my relationship with John Ruffin, I refer to Psalm 133:1 “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” John and I became Brothers from the same Father. God’s hand moved us to a level of friendship that many strive for, but never achieve. John Ruffin’s presence continues to be manifest in the multitudes of people he helped in his earthly walk.”
Mary Zalaznik, VP, VITAS Healthcare (Retired) stated, “It was my privilege to meet John through his leadership role in the VITAS African American Community Advisory Board. John was very generous of his time and knowledge of the community as VITAS continuously endeavored to improve our outreach and delivery of hospice services. I don’t think I have met a man who embodied more grace and dignity. While he clearly stated expectations and “raised the bar”, he always treated everyone (and their questions) with interest and respect. As respected as he is for his many accomplishments, he is also deeply respected and admired for his humility and his welcoming spirit of inclusion.
“Our community has lost an incredible leader, successful entrepreneur, and inspirational philanthropist with the passing of Dr. John W. Ruffin, Jr. All that knew Dr. Ruffin would agree with me that he stepped up and left his mark on society through his life’s work. A debonair man by nature, he took family, business, and community to the heart of his existence. It is not an exaggeration to say that Dr. John W. Ruffin, Jr., inspired people, because he inspired me as a new member of the Florida Memorial University’s Board of Trustees to be an Advocate for Excellence. Because of the generosity of John, his wife Dottie, and the entire Ruffin family, Florida Memorial University will be able to advance education to deserving students. For that, I will be forever grateful. My prayers are with the Ruffin family at this time,” said William McCormick, Chairman Florida Memorial University Board of Trustees.
Al Calloway and Ruffin go back to their days in New Jersey. They would later run across each other in South Florida. “John and I go back to the same area in East Orange, New Jersey where my parents owned property and where I stayed occasionally with my grandmother. We talked some about the area. But he became a hero to me for stepping out and purchasing and operating a radio station in Southern Florida, wow! We quietly worked on very meaningful projects together including the creation of OIC of Broward and South Florida, as well as “The Digital Divide.” I deeply respected his more than three decades of fundraising for the UNCF. John was a great friend.”
With a history of medical professionals in her family Deborah Mizell expresses her feelings of family and community relationships as shared with Mr. Ruffin. “I met John over 25 years ago in his doctor’s office where I was a nurse. He started a conversation about family. He asked me about my family and shared information about his family. About five years later I met him again at a community meeting. We struck up a conversation and he shared with me his health concern and asked my opinion. That was the beginning of a long friendship. I became his healthcare consultant/advocate. He would introduce me as, “Deborah, my nurse.”
Over the years of doctor visits, research and treatments, he looked at me one day and said “You are family. I want your family to meet my family”, and he invited us to his annual 3-day Labor Day Family celebration in North Carolina to meet the rest of his family. I’ve told him over the years that he has been the big brother I always wanted. As his nurse, friend and adopted family member, John always had a listening ear and a compassionate heart. I asked him one day, “What do you do?” He answered, “I try to connect people to their dreams.” What a noble statement from a noble and honorable man.”
Mr. Ruffin set the path for me(Charles Moseley) becoming a community activist by sending me to various functions in Broward County such as the United Negro College Fund, Support for Federal Judge Alcee Hastings, empowering local Black politicians from Hallandale to Deerfield Beach. My accomplishments were greatly impacted by John Ruffin.
Celebration of Life services under the auspices of Florida Memorial University, Miami, FL.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the “John and Dorothy Ruffin Endowed Scholarship” on Florida Memorial University’s website; https://www.fmuniv.edu/jd-ruffin-endowed-scholarship/
Please contact Florida Memorial University after August 10th for details of the Celebration of Life services for Dr. John W. Ruffin, Jr. Funeral services provided by Roy Mizell-Kurtz Funeral Home, Fort Lauderdale, FL.