Joseph D. Ruffolo

  • Died: December 27, 2011
  • Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

D O McComb and Sons - Lakeside Park

1140 Lake Ave
Fort Wayne, IN 46805

Tel. (260) 426-9494

Tribute & Message From The Family

JOSEPH D. RUFFOLO, 70, of Fort Wayne, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, at The Town House Retirement Center. Born May 9, 1941, in Kenosha, Wisc., he was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and of Harvard University's Advanced Management Program. Following graduation, he served as an intern in Washington, D.C. in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He held various management positions at Reynolds Metals and at the Squibb Corporation prior to coming to Fort Wayne in 1974 to accept a senior management position at NorthAmerican, Inc., then owned by PepsiCo, Inc. and later by Norfolk Southern Corporation. In 1987, he became NorthAmerican's Chief Executive Officer and served as CEO until his retirement in 1993. He co-founded RuffoloBenson, LLC, a merchant banking company, with a mission "to regain and retain local ownership of regional companies." Among other things, RuffoloBenson has been instrumental in working to develop the necessary infrastructure and financial support to encourage local entrepreneurism , including the formation of the Main Street Venture Fund, one of the first entrepreneurial venture capital funds in the region, to invest in and help guide start-up companies and other entrepreneurial enterprises. He was also a co-founder and investor in Tower Financial Corporation and Tower Bank and was also an investor in and advisor to numerous regional companies and start up biomedical firms. He served on the board of directors of numerous privately owned companies, such as AWS, LLC, Beltmann Transportation Group, Inc., Dekalb Molded Plastics Company, Jack Laurie Flooring, Inc., Pizza Hut of Fort Wayne, Inc., and SaniServe, Inc. He also served on the board of directors of a number of public companies, including Steel Dynamics, Inc., where he served as Co-Chair of its Audit Committee, a member of its Compensation Committee and as the Board's Lead Director, and Tower Financial Corporation, Inc., where he served as Chair of the Compensation Committee. He also served on the board of directors of a number of not-for-profit organizations, such as the Henry Foundation, Steel Dynamics Foundation, and the Schwab Foundation, following its reorganization by the Indiana Attorney General. He was also active in the American Symphony Orchestra League, the American Movers Conference, the Parkview Health System and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. He chaired the Youth Violence Committee, a local effort to understand and deal with gang violence, served on many civic and governmental bodies, such as the Fort Wayne Allen County Transportation Committee, Allen County Tax Committee and the Safety Academy, and was appointed to the board of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department and served as its Chair. He was also a member of St. Charles Catholic Church, the Business Forum and the Quest Club, and was a former member of the Anthony Wayne Rotary Club. As a community leader, he advocated the importance of inviting young people to serve on local boards and to get involved in community leadership and he pressed for changes in secondary education to better support the education and employment needs of a rapidly changing global economy. Prior to the remodeling of the Memorial Coliseum, he was involved in the efforts to build a new sports and entertainment complex in downtown Fort Wayne. In 1993, because of his well known expertise in the transportation business, he was called upon to assist in the privatization of government trucking companies in Russia, focusing on the breakup of government operated units and the creation of new privately held companies. He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Linda L. Ruffolo; his daughter, Julie (Brian) Gilpin, of Whitefish Bay, Wisc., married to Brian Gilpin also from Fort Wayne; his two "pride and joy" grandsons, Jack and Luke Gilpin; and by his son, Joseph D. Ruffolo II of New York City. He is also survived and will be missed by many relatives, business colleagues and friends. He was preceded in death by both of his parents. By Joe's express wishes, there will be no public visitation or public funeral. His funeral service will be limited to a family only private Mass in Madison, Wisc. at the Campus Catholic Chapel of the University of Wisconsin. In lieu of flowers, preferred memorials can be made to The Parkview Foundation, the Towne House in Fort Wayne or to the Joseph D. Ruffolo Memorial Scholarship Fund for the benefit of deserving students pursuing business and entrepreneurial careers, c/o Tower Bank, Att: David Fee, 116 East Berry Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. Arrangements by D.O. McComb and Sons Lakeside Park Funeral Home. To sign the online guest book, go to

Condolence & Memory Journal

Linda and Family..I was shocked and saddened to hear of Joes passing..In 1975 he lured me, then ex Navy Submariner at the Harvard Business School to come to NAVL for a Summer- "Try might like it"..and Joe used his best persuasive powers as 1/3 of the fledgling NAVL HR department to make it so..and I stayed with NAVL for 9 years.. and then was an agent thru 1998.
I so enjoyed Joe's upbeat attitude.. from his 2 day trip to Lebanaon to close our branch there in the midst of a war in 1982... to his efforts with the AMC to try and elevate the public view of the moving industry- Full page picture of Joe in Newsweek in 1983!!

Amazing guy..Much missed in many industries..and an upbeat spirit that was instrumental in my career.. Fair winds and Following Seas Joe..

Posted by Bill Elliott - Princeton NJ, NJ - Employee, Friend   July 02, 2012

Linda and family,

We are very sad to hear about the passing of our dear friend Joe. He was a wonderful man and a great leader. He lived life to the fullest with much class, integrity and passion.

Our deepest sympathy is with you and your family. May all the good memories help you get through this difficult time.

You remain in our thoughts and prayers,


John Von Paris
The Von Paris Family
Von Paris Moving and Storage
Baltimore, Maryland

Posted by John Von Paris - Baltimore, MD - Friend   January 04, 2012

Dear Linda,

Our company, Transpo International Ltd. (now Asian Tigers Thailand), represented northAmerican Van Lines for over 35 years. We came to know Joe through this association. We considered him a leader, business associate, and friend. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to you and your family,


Bill Reinsch

Posted by Bill Reinsch    January 04, 2012

My condolences for the loss of Mr. Ruffolo. I only knew him for a brief time, but he left quite an impact! Very kind, motivated, and full of wisdom. He gave us an encouraging word when it should have been the other way around! God bless Joe and his family. You will be in my thoughts and prayers!

Sincerely, Kristy Ponder

Posted by Kristy Ponder - Fort Wayne, IN - Parkview OT   December 31, 2011

Linda and Family,

We were saddened to learn of Joe's recent death. After I retired from FWCS Joe gave me guidance as I established a company - guidance that made the company a success. Joe's wit and humor were enjoyed by his fellow Business Forum Members at our luncheons and outings. We all know Joe was a giving man, a friend of many groups and organizations. But he influenced and helped me in a very personal way, and I will never forget it!

Joe, a job well done - rest in peace.

Posted by Dan and Beverly Howe - Sarasota, FL   December 30, 2011


To Joe's Family,

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Joe. You have our condolences. Joe had a positive effect on everyone that knew him. He spent some time with me helping me when I was diagnosed with cancer. He was a great and kind man. He will be greatly missed.

Rick & Monica Trump

Posted by Rick Trump - Fort Wayne, IN - Business/Friend   December 30, 2011

We simply do not expect the giants among us to leave. For so many years Joe has been a "difference maker" in nearly every corner of the Ft. Wayne community. And still, he had the time to interact one on one with the people along the way. I remember sitting at the table with him at Quest club and how upbeat he was. I remember standing in the aisle at intermission of a Philharmonic concert just over a year ago. I asked him about trains and Ft. Wayne because Quest was creating a DVD on transportation of the past 100 years. He smiled and immediately recalled a number of facts, each one showing this community in a good light. "You know, there were 200 trains a day going through here at one time," he said. "That's a lot of trains."

He volunteered his help. He set the standard for "doing unto others...." This community will miss him. We all salute him. Godspeed,

Posted by dana wichern - fort wayne, IN - acquaintance   December 30, 2011

Like so many, we were saddened by Joe's passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with Linda and the Ruffolo family. Joe's enormous contributions to our community will reverberate for years to come. If one generation plants trees so the children can have shade, Joe fostered an entire forest. He was a great role model, and he will be missed by so many. Rest in peace, Joe, you earned it.

John and Mary Brandt

Posted by John and Mary Brandt - Fort Wayne, IN - Friends   December 29, 2011

Joe was such an instrumental part of my growth as a business person. I will never forget him and wish his family well. I hope that the memories of the good times you had with him will sustain you. Much love from my husband Mark and I to you all.

Posted by Dee Putman-Elliott - Irvine, CA - Business Associate and friend   December 29, 2011

Good men are well remembered. Rest in peace, Joe.

Posted by David Zych - Dallas, TX - Employee at NAVL   December 29, 2011


Posted by JOE - GLENDALE, CA - NORTH AMERICAN AGENT   December 29, 2011



Posted by BOBBEE CAMPBELL - CONCORD, CA - BUSINESS   December 29, 2011

To Joe's family, please accept my deepest condolences on your loss. I trust that your memories will help during this saddest of times.

I did not know Joe personally. I was a competitor. But I came to have great respect for him through the people with which he surrounded himself. Many of them have become very close friends of mine. Over the years, they all expressed great respect and admiration for him. I am certain that he will be missed.

Posted by George Sikora - Wheaton, IL - Business associate   December 29, 2011

Linda & family, so very sorry for your loss. Joe was a good guy and liked by all who were lucky enough to know him. North American was made better by him and so was I. God Bless.

Posted by Tom Weimer - Fort Wayne, IN - Business Co-Worker   December 29, 2011

Dear Linda, we were so sorry to read of Joe's passing. We will keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers during this time .We still remember with fondness your Christmas cards during our NAVL days.
Your old neighbors. friends and Navl co-workers
Don and Jane Blankers

Posted by Don and Jane Blankers - Norcross, GA - friend,neighbor,co-worker   December 28, 2011

I guess Entrepreneurs and investors are needed in Heaven also. Many are sad to see you go sometimes heaven doesn't think so. My Prayers going out to family and friends. If someone takes one step in Joe's footprint, they are sure to leave a legacy directed by one of the best... to say the least. I hope to one day follow in those footsteps to be a community provider as well a staple and carry some of the legacy along the way. What a great mentor, such a loss.

Posted by Ron Timmons - Fort Wayne, IN - friend   December 28, 2011

Thanks for being a good friend and mentor.For being one of the busiest people I known, you always made time. The world is a poorer place without you.

Posted by Tony and Beth Wolf - Ft Wayne, IN - Friend   December 28, 2011

Dear: Joe

Did you ever know you were my hero and everything I would like to be?

I can fly higher than an eagle because you were the wind beneath my wings.

It might has appeared to go unnoticed

But I have it all right hear in my heart

I want you to know the truth

I would have been nothing without you

You were and will forever be my hero!!

Posted by Tom Tonkel - Huntertown, IN - Friend and Co-Worker   December 28, 2011

LInda, Julie, Joe II,

I'm so very sorry to hear this news. I only have fond memories of Joe Sr and your family. Joe Sr. was an absolute class act. I had the misfortune of losing my mother earlier this year and I completely understand the feelings of loss.

Take care,

Dennis Monagle & family.

Posted by Dennis Monagle - Virginia Beach, VA - family friend   December 28, 2011

Linda, Julie, and Joe --

I was shocked and saddened to read of Joe's death yesterday. He was an exceptional man -- good husband, good father and grandfather, good neighbor, good person. As I read his obituary, I realized again how much of himself he gave to our community and beyond. I will remember his laugh and his humility. My prayers are with you all at this sad time. May you all be comforted with your individual and family memories of Joe/Dad. The rest of us will keep him and you in our hearts.

Posted by Bev (Weinraub) Peters - Fort Wayne, IN - Friend   December 28, 2011

Posted by Tom Tonkel - Huntertown, IN - Friend and Co-Worker   December 28, 2011

I was very blessed to know Joe and Linda and my heart goes out to their family. Fort Wayne is a better place thanks to the Ruffolo's generous spirit and hard work.

Posted by Joanie Pauwels - Fort Myers,, FL - Friend   December 28, 2011

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Joe. I worked with Joe at North American Van Lines for 10 years. Unknown to him he was my mentor and the greatest man I ever met. Just by walking into a room Joe commanded attention and respect. The world has truly loss one of the best. R.I.P. Joe I will never forget the positive impact you had on my life.

Posted by Tom Tonkel - Huntetown, IN - Friend and Co-Worker   December 28, 2011

Dear Linda and Family,
So sad to hear of Joe's passing. He was such a nice, kind and gentle man. He leaves a great legacy with all he touched and improved in Fort Wayne. My prayers are with you as God holds Joe in the palm of His hand!

Posted by Jennifer R. Bosk - Raleigh, NC - Friend   December 28, 2011

Joe was an amazing man, he was extremely gifted and willing to share of his time and wisdom. He was interested in making money, but never greedy and selflessly advised us in our early stages of development. He drove all the way out to Grabill Indiana to meet with my brother and me. We followed his advice and proceeded over the next 12 years to grow our small start up company to now employ over 300 people here in NE Indiana. Many times along the way Joe gave advice and spent his time and shared his wisdom. He was a great man with an enormous heart and a passion for helping others. So thank you Joe, your family can never know all the details of how you helped so many people. I hope this small memory will serve as testament to the kind of man you chose to be. Godspeed Joe.

Mike Bermes

Posted by Mike Bermes - Fort Wayne, IN - Business Advisor   December 28, 2011

I have very fond memories of Mr. Ruffolo when he visited his daughter Julie at DePauw and then years later in Fort Wayne during preparations for her wedding. He was a very loving and doting father to his daughter. I know he will be deeply missed.

Posted by Katie Pell Daniello - lewes, DE - Family friend   December 28, 2011

Joe Ruffolo was a great man who cared deeply about Fort Wayne. He gave selflessly of his time to help anyone who asked. He was a true community leader. Peace be with you Joe.

Posted by Joe Bockerstette - Fort Wayne, IN - Business Partner   December 27, 2011

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