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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

I Swear… We All Have A Legacy

A good friend and long-time golfing buddy sent me this clip of a song about swearing on the golf course. (Please view the song which will take less than three minutes before reading the rest of this week’s Thoughts for Thursday).

Father Bill Rutledge


After listening to the golf song, I responded to my friend telling him that I loved the song and that it reminded me of Father Bill Rutledge a long-time member Highland Country Club in West View, PA. I then shared with my friend an interaction I witnessed Father Bill having with one of his playing partners during a round of golf.

His partner had just hit a lousy shot after which he exclaimed in a loud voice, “What a f***ing idiot I am!” Hearing this, Father Bill walked over to his partner, put his hand on his shoulder and said to him quietly, “You’re not an idiot, God loves you and so do I.” Then Father Bill gently patted the man’s shoulder, before turning to address his ball, before playing his shot and continuing their round of golf together.

Shortly after sharing this memory of Father Bill my friend responded saying that he loved the simplicity of the message, but that unfortunately, he could not recall ever having met Father Bill.

This got me thinking. I knew Father Bill had passed away a few years ago so I did an internet search hoping to find a photo that I could send to my friend to jog his memory.

While I did find Father Bill’s photo, I also found over two dozen entries in the Guest Book that accompanied his obituary that recounted the impact that Father Bill had made in the lives of individuals he touched during his years in ministry.

While I’ve provided the link to the entire guest book below, I’ve highlighted a few of the more impactful comments made about Father Bill Rutledge that illustrate a life well lived.

“He was the only priest that would give my mom a Catholic funeral back in the day, even though she had undergone a hysterectomy.”

“Father was exactly what a priest should be and so much more. He was a wonderful caring and intelligent man who taught through his actions and scripture.”

“…Father Bill was truly an inspiration and an exceptional role model. He had such a generous heart and loved working with the youth of the parishes. I especially remember working on the farm with him. We would raise produce to sell in the neighborhood and with the proceeds he would take us on trips. I remember the trip to the World’s Fair in New York and to Sea Isle City, New Jersey. He was an inspiration to all, a true role model and a very holy man.” 

“Father Rutledge was a one-of-a-kind priest, during my years at St. Henry's grade school in the late 1950's. He led our youth group. He bought an old school bus that he named Stymie and took all of us so many places - ballgames, movies, dinner at the Brass Rail in downtown Pittsburgh and shows at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. He hosted a dinner for our 8th grade class at Beck’s Charter Oaks in Greentree, PA, the restaurant was a dining car. The first time I had Beef Wellington was with him.”

Even at the end of his life, Father Bill was still ministering to those around him.

“Father Bill, I was truly blessed to have met you and it was truly my honor to care for you as your hospice nurse. While I am sad that I can no longer sit at your feet and listen to your wit and wisdom, I feel nothing but sheer joy knowing that you are whole again. You are at home now.

The things you taught me about life, about myself, and about our Lord are priceless. Before long, our relationship evolved from that of patient-nurse to friends. Thank you for guiding me. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you, my friend, for allowing me into your life. And though my heart aches right now, I can hear your voice in my head, and there is a smile on my face. So, until we meet again well.”

What a great legacy of a life well lived by a man of faith.

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