RUFFNER, LESTER WARD - Yavapai County, Arizona | LESTER WARD RUFFNER - Arizona Gravestone Photos

Lester Ward RUFFNER

Mountain View Cemetery
Yavapai County,

Lester W. (Budge) Ruffner
b. March 17, 1918, Prescott, Az.
d. May 14, 1996, Phoenix, Az.
h/o Elisabeth Alma (Friedrich) Ruffner
(m) Aug. 1940
s/o Lester Lee & Mary Ethelyn (Ward) Ruffner

Site # O/---/-

Budge's Bio from Ruffner Family History

Budge was born in Prescott, Arizona on March 17, 1918, into a pioneer Arizona family who had arrived in the territory in 1867. His great-uncle, Morris Andrew Ruffner, filed the first copper claims near where Jerome now stands.

His parents were Mary Ethelyn (Ward) Ruffner, the first public school music teacher in the Arizona Territory, and Lester Lee Ruffner. Lester Lee operated the Ruffner Funeral Home, a business which his brother, George, won at the Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row in January of 1903. The wager that night centered around an unpaid livery bill owed by the undertaker, Frank Nevins, to Ruffner’s Plaza Stables. In the best tradition of the old west, the business changed hands at the turn of a card. The business continues and is today the only funeral home from territorial days still in operation.

Budge was an unremarkable student until he attended Brophy Prep in Phoenix, where strict Jesuit priests taught him to study to remember, read to think, and write to inform, persuade and amuse. He spent two mid-teen summers as a Model A Ford driver and camp cook for expeditions led by Barnard College anthropologist, Gladys Reichard, for field studies in Navajo land in and beyond northeastern Arizona. “She taught me,’ recalled Budge sixty years later, ‘to judge people by their standards and not my own.”

He attended Loyola University in Los Angeles and graduated from Cincinnati College of Embalming in 1939. Upon returning to Arizona, he entered the family business. In August of 1940, he married Elisabeth “Bette” (Friedrich) Ruffner of Cincinnati, Ohio, and they honeymooned in Arizona’s Indian country. Subsequently, Budge enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served until 1943.

A giver to his community and state, Budge organized the 20/30 Club in 1943 to facilitate the continuation of Prescott’s Frontier Days celebration and the World’s Oldest Rodeo, which his Uncle George had helped to organize in 1888. He was chairman of Prescott’s Centennial Commission and was chosen “Man of the Year” for 1965-66. In 1964, he became a columnist for the Prescott Courier, penning stories of the Southwest, which he loved so much. Over the years, he wrote articles and reviews for Arizona Highways magazine, New Mexico magazine, Arizona Attorney magazine, Southwest Art, Western Folklorist, Poems Southwest and Arizona Anthem.

Budge was also the author of three books, All Hell Needs Is Water (1972), Shot In The Ass With Pesos: A Collection of Frontier Tales (1979), and Ruff Country: Tales West by Southwest (1994). With his daughter, Melissa, he co-authored the Arizona Territorial Sampler: Food and Lifestyles of a Frontier (1982, and now in its 3rd edition).

His long list of community and state involvement includes charter member of the Prescott Corral of Westerners in 1962, and acting as its president in 1964. He was a charter member of the Arizona Historical Foundation, at the invitation of his lifetime friend, the late Senator Barry Goldwater. He served two terms as its president and was recipient of its coveted Al Merito award. Budge introduced Barry Goldwater on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse for every announcement the Senator made for national office (including his presidential bid), save his last senatorial race. Budge was a member of the Indian Commission of the State of Arizona and a member & chairman of the Arizona Lottery Commission, appointed by then Governor Bruce Babbitt.

Budge also taught as adjunct professor of Southwestern history and literature at both Yavapai College and Prescott College.

In 1994, Don Dedera, his longtime friend and colleague at Arizona Highways magazine wrote: “Then what are we to do with this huge, western-dressed hombre with a laugh loud enough to fell ponderosa pines? Who lurches through social gatherings, shamelessly bragging about his honored historian wife, Elisabeth, their three children and eight grandchildren, one-of-a-kind cronies, his sassy and sometimes snooty hometown, its surrounding countryside, and the hosts of Indians, Jews, Mexicans, Slavs, Blacks - ministers, murderers, politicians, priests, lawmen, sainted and painted ladies - fools, leaders, connivers, gamblers and achievers - that he met in the flesh or encountered in history?”

“What to do with this minstrel who into his eighth decade continues to commit to paper his discoveries and ideas? At least, he is a living treasure of Yavapai County. Probably of Arizona. Possibly of the nation.”

“Why...let us ENJOY him!”

On May 14, 1996, Budge Ruffner, this treasured man, passed away, leaving us with a legacy of stories, memories and the realization of his vision - the reunification of Peter and Mary (Steinman) Ruffner’s descendants.

Contributed on 4/1/05 by jlbranson78
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Record #: 21495

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Submitted: 4/1/05 • Approved: 11/14/13 • Last Updated: 7/13/20 • R21495-G21495-S3

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