By Emily Fedor
On the morning of January 29, Billy Ruddy, a senior a Dunmore High School, came downstairs to see his father, Bob. Billy asked his dad to watch a video that he had made and posted to YouTube. He didn’t say what the video was about or give away any details before heading off to school.
The video Billy created commemorates the days that his dad and uncle had shared as teammates and brothers in addition to old news footage covering the accident that took his uncle’s life.
He had shared the video on Facebook for all of his friends and family to see.
“Everyone that grew up in Dunmore, knew the Ruddy twins,” said Billy. “They were known obviously for their football talents, but the people they were on and off the field made everyone love them.”
January 29, 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the tragic car accident that involved Bob and his twin brother Billy. The two were football stars for the Dunmore Bucks and helped the team capture the program’s first Eastern Conference Class A crown in 1985.
The sons of Rose and the late James Ruddy, Bob and Billy were the youngest of the 13 children who made up this native Dunmore family. This number includes their brother Mark who passed away after birth.
On January 29, 1986, the twins were on their way to a recruitment visit at Mansfield University. Upon approaching their destination, their car, driven by a family friend and Mansfield assistant football coach Frank Butsko, collided with a tractor trailer.
Billy Ruddy and Frank Butsko were pronounced dead at the scene. Bob Ruddy suffered serious injuries, which caused him to be under hospital care until after his brother’s funeral services, but he managed to make it out of the crash alive.
As they were not only brothers, but identical twins, the youngest Ruddys had a special bond both on and off the football field. They were competitive but also very protective of each other. Bob remembers his brother taking blocks for him under the Friday night lights during football season.
On the morning of their Mansfield visit, he recalled racing his brother to the car and fighting over the front seat.
After a minute, they realized that their actions may make Butsko question their maturity. Billy ended up taking the passenger seat next to while Bob hopped in the back.
“Looking back on it now, it was really like he took one last block for me.”
During the course of their football careers at Dunmore, the Ruddy family had recorded televised news stories about the twins and their success with the Bucks. Recording these memories became especially important during their senior season, which they played in memory of their father, James, who passed away earlier in 1985.
They also served a purpose during Bob’s stay in the hospital, when he wasn’t conscious for a time after the accident to know what exactly was unfolding.
Billy was able to edit together some of those old videos along with photos of his father and uncle to create his video.
“I usually make a post on Facebook every year,” said Billy, “but with this year being the 30th anniversary, I wanted to do something different.”
Although he never had the pleasure of meeting the uncle after whom he was named, he has heard a lot of stories about him over the years from not only his dad, but from other relatives, family friends and even faculty members at Dunmore High School, too.
“He was the kind of person who would stand up for someone being bullied in school,” said Billy. “He was just a positive person.”
Billy’s father agreed, saying his brother was a person many people, including himself, wanted to emulate. And although his son followed his own path and decided not to become a football star for the Bucks, Bob said he sees many of his late brother’s qualities in Billy, as well as his daughter, Casey, every day.
To say the least, Bob was touched by his son’s surprise on that chilly Friday morning.
“I couldn’t help but get a little emotional,” Bob said. “Doing that just shows the kind of man he is, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
But what Bob was most glad about was the fact that Dunmoreans, his son included, aren’t afraid to talk about his brother and the wonderful life he lived.
It’s never easy to look back on difficult times without having emotions take over, but as Billy so perfectly reminded everyone with his video tribute: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”