2012 DOUG MCARTHUR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT
It all started for Ruggles Larson in Marshall County, Minnesota. It was 1941, and first grader Ruggles placed second in the chinning competition during Field day for non-high school districts.
Fast forward through seven decades, and there is hardly a day that Ruggles Larson hasn’t maintained his passion for a wide variety of sports. There were plenty of wins along the way, but his perseverance in pursuing athletics for himself, and helping others learn to enjoy them, is what has marked his lifetime of athletic achievement.
Ruggles spent his early year in Minnesota before moving to Tacoma in 1944 during the war years. He attended Horace Mann Grade School, Stewart Junior High, and then graduated from Lincoln High School in 1952. He took classes at Washington State College, San Francisco City College and College of Puget Sound before earning his bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate from Western Washington College of Education. Later, taking summer and evening classes over a three-year period, he earned a master’s degree and principal’s credentials from the University of Puget Sound in 1972.
While pursuing his initial college degree, Ruggles married Nancy (Bishop), a 1953 graduate of White River High School, and they would have five children – Jennifer, Lou Ann, Jackie, Samantha, and Zac – all of whom graduated from Stadium High School.
In his early years in Tacoma, Ruggles participated in a variety of sports at Ailing Park including volleyball and softball, and other less conventional intramural activities such as checkers, ping pong and tetherball. At that point in 1947 he discovered boxing, and for the next 11 years he made his most significant athletic mark in the ring. During that time he fought in 119 amateur bouts and compiled a record of 93 wins, 23 losses and three draws.
He actually got his start in boxing after a literally all-too-brief introduction to basketball at Stewart Junior High School. Ruggles played approximately 31 seconds during that eighth grade season, and he figured he was more suited for boxing.
Fighting in Golden Glove and Diamond Belt tournaments in Tacoma during the early and mid 1950s, he won seven fights and lost four, with split-decision losses for titles in 1952, 1954 and 1956. Boxing at 132 pounds, he won Oakland (Calif.) Golden Gloves titles in both 1953 and 1954. He also won the Vancouver Island title at 132 pounds in 1956, and that same year lost in the semifinals of the Seattle Golden Gloves competition.
In one of his most memorable fights in 1952, he lost a three-round split decision to eventual Canadian Olympian Len Walters. Ruggles had Walters on the canvas, but the Canadian was saved by the bell at the count of nine, and the fight went to Walters.
He also had a successful boxing career in the military. He won the Pacific West All-Marine Corps title at 132 pounds in 1954 and the 12th Naval District crown at the same weight in 1955. Fighting in the All-Marine Corps Championships in 1954, he dropped a semifinal round decision to Walt Byars, who went on to become the sixth-rated welterweight in the world.
In order to supplement his income while attending the aforementioned College of Puget Sound and Western Washington College of Education, he stepped into the professional ring where he had six wins, one loss and two draws. He ended his two-year pro career in 1958 because he needed only to finish two quarters of student teaching to get his degree, and the money he was making in the ring wasn’t substantial enough to keep him interested in the sport.
From 1959-64, Ruggles was a teacher and coach at Dieringer Middle School, leading boys basketball, girls fastpitch and boys fastpitch intramural programs. After a year of coaching junior high football, basketball and track & field in Kalama, he returned to Dieringer where again he gave direction to boys and girls intramural sports programs. He ended up retiring in 1989 after a 29-year career at Dieringer, and for the next five years served as a substitute teacher in the Tacoma and Franklin Pierce school districts.
From 1964-72 he kept his hand in boxing circles, writing the “Pacific Northwest Boxing News” column for Ring magazine, authoring an occasional piece for Los Angeles-based Referee magazine, and even promoting a couple of 1967 fights at the Ice Arena located at 38th and South Tacoma Way.
Boxing wasn’t his only passion, however, as indicated by a long list of road races – he participated in the initial Sound to Narrows run in 1973 – and a variety of other athletic activities.
He has pounded the pavement on more than 700 road races. Some measured as short as one mile, most were in the 5k and 10k range, but Ruggles also counts 10 half marathons and an incredible 28 marathons on his road-running resume.
From 1983-2002, he also participated in 270 non-competitive runs called volksmarches, with 75 of those coming in 1997 while he recovered from surgery to remove a cancerous kidney.
Starting in the late 1980s, continuing in the mid 1990s and again from 2004-09, Ruggles competed in a total of 81 track meets, most of them sponsored by Pierce County Parks and Metro Parks of Tacoma, in order to prepare himself for the Senior Games. He still competes in those competitions and continues to add to an incredible total of 291 events including track and field and most everything else from billiards, bocci and bowling to racquetball, rope skipping and (indoor) rowing.
And if they had chinning in the Senior Games, you can bet that Ruggles would participate in that.