BELGRADE – Bernard Edward Ruf of Fishkill, N.Y., a lifelong area resident, died Saturday, Jan. 24, at his home in Belgrade, Maine, at age 70 from cancer. In the days before his death, he was blessed to be surrounded by his loving family.

Bernie was born on Dec. 16, 1938, in Beacon, N,Y., son of the late George and Gertrude Griffon Ruf.

Following graduation from Beacon High School in 1957, Bernie entered the U.S. Army and served with the 380th Chemical Company based at Fort Bragg, N.C. He continued to serve for several years in the Army Reserves. He disregarded the advice of military physicians who suggested that he not serve because of a cardiac arrhythmia and went on to attain the rank of staff sergeant E-6 in charge of supplies. Throughout his life, he related detailed stories of his time in the service and was proud to be “a true blue American.”

Bernie began working in 1957 at the Fresh Air Fund’s Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, N.Y., helping to clear land during the constructions of Beaver Lake, the largest lake at Sharpe. He held a number of positions at the reservation during his 50-year tenure, including director of the Environmental Center and then as director of operations, a position which he held for 20 years, until finally retiring in April 2007. Bernie headed up Sharpe’s first protected nature preserve, the “Wildlife Refuge;” created a stream preservation program; expanded an extensive trail system, including an ecology trail, nature trail, geology trail and a historical trail. He created the Sharpe Environmental Center, one of the largest privately operated environmental education centers in New York State. Bernie oversaw the re-development and renovation of seven summer camps, helping to provide respite and education for thousands of underprivileged children. He was instrumental in the construction of two new camps, Camp Mariah and Camp Tommy. Bernie had an unparalleled impact in the fields of conservation and environmental education in the Hudson Valley region. His legacy is that of a self-taught naturalist, outdoorsman, environmentalist, fisherman, mentor and teacher.

His abundant knowledge of nature and his sense of humor endeared him to many. He rescued and rehabilitated countless wild animals and led the only working team of oxen in Dutchess County. His largest disappointments were that he did not get more time to enjoy the outdoors following his retirement to Maine, (which he called “paradise”) fishing with his partner, Nancy, on Belgrade’s beautiful lakes, watching owls and turkeys at the deck feeders, listening to the coyotes and their young howling in the night behind the house, and stomping through the northern Maine woods in search of snowshoe hare and moose.

Bernie was a life member of the Wiccoppee Rod & Gun Club, a charter member and life member of the Green Haven Fish & Game Association and a member of the Upper Hudson Beagle Club. Bernie also served on the Environmental Review Board for the Town of Fishkill Planning Department. Bernie was a devout Catholic and longstanding parishioner of St. Mary Mother of the Church in Fishkill.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Nancy, of Belgrade; daughter, Heidi Gordon and her husband, Seth, of Falmouth; sons, Bernard W. Ruf and his wife, Linda, of Newburgh, N.Y., Ret. Lt. Col. Charles Lunati and his wife, Barbara, of Alexandria, Va., and Raymond Lunati and his wife, Mary Beth, of New Paltz, N.Y.; loving grandchildren, Hannah, Jake, Max and Mia; and 13 nieces and nephews; beloved dogs, Tauzer and Penny; cats, Dodger, George and Missy; and Standardbred race horses, Moving to Glory, Kennebec Shuffle and a new foal due March 8th, to be named “Bad Boy Bernie” (gender permitting).

Bernie was predeceased by his parents and his three brothers, Sheldon, David and Ludwig.

The family would like to extend special thanks to Drs. Maria Ikossi, Amir Modaressi, Father Joseph Manship, Madeleine Normand and the wonderful nurses and staff of St. Mary’s Medical Center in Lewiston.

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