Driving various road vehicles formed a large part of Gordon Ruddell’s life. From 1982 until the last few years, he served at the wheel of an ambulance, a fire engine and a taxi, not just as a way of making a living, but also observing life in general.
Gordon, who was 75, died in Craigavon Area Hospital, where he worked in the ambulance service from 1982 until 2001. He left that post when the era of the paramedic dawned, as he didn’t want to develop his career in that direction. At that stage, he took to taxi driving which took him up to retirement some three years ago.
Gordon passed away after a long illness, and was sustained by a loving family which saw him through to the end – he died on June 22.
He began life at Wilson Street, which was mainly residential in those days, and which now leads to the “new” train station. It was in fact, part of the goods station in those days, when the street was still known locally as ‘Jam Row’.
He was one of a large family of Stewart and Sarah Ruddell, of whom two daughters survive, Ivy and Sally. Gordon is survived by his wife, Joan, sons Alan and Mark from a previous marriage and daughters Stephanie, Wendy, Julie and Zoe. There are 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
He spent his childhood at Woodside Hill and attended Edenderry Primary School during the days when Alfie Lynas and then Evan Johnston were principals. Staff included Biddy Walsh, May Gardiner and Davy-John Kennedy.
Gordon worked at Ulster Carpet Mills from the 1950s until 1982, at which stage he joined the ambulance service. He married Joan in 1979 and they lived at Clonavon Avenue, later moving to Arthur Avenue.
He was a member of the retained Fire Service from 1974-96, and – together with his colleagues in both services – helped raise large amounts of money for charity.
Daughter Stephanie Cardwell delivered the tribute at St Mark’s Church of Ireland. She said, “Dad saved many lives working in the ambulance service and the fire brigade. He did this primarily during the hardship of the troubles and beyond, witnessing the trauma of these events. I think his light-hearted sense of humour gave him a way of dealing with this.
“He worked hard at fund-raising for local charities, raising as much as £30,000 for the neo-natal unit in Craigavon, together with his colleagues.
“This came at a time when resources were not as they are now, and as ambulance personnel, they had seen so many young babies having to be transported to the Royal in Belfast.
“Dad was always able to blag his way to getting prizes for raffles, doing this for events to be held in Portadown. He sold tickets to the events which gave him opportunities to take mum out, getting dressed up, all the while raising money for charity, giving up his own free time.”
Gordon took up taxi driving in 2001, working on his own behalf and for local firms which found him utterly dependable and able to communicate with customers. This was thanks to his driving experiences over the years, his local knowledge and that fact as he often said, he was “related to half the town”. He was a happy out-going character and thoroughly enjoyed life.
Gordon also loved the occasional flutter on the horses, purely for the enjoyment and not for any thoughts of profit. His last wagers were on the recent Royal Ascot meeting, attended each day by the Queen.
He especially enjoyed Christmas. As Stephanie put it, “He had great organising skills, arranging Christmas parties at the fire station for the staff’s children and at the hospital.
“He loved Christmas time, he loved the music, and being part of St. Mark’s Silver Band gave him the opportunity to arrange for them to play music in the hospital canteen every year.
“Dad organised for Santa to come to Portadown and gave out sweets to the children, riding on the fire engine.
“When the Christmas tree lights where switched on, Wendy and I were sitting in the back of the fire engine waving at our friends.”
Gordon played French horn in St Mark’s Band as well as the percussion section – the symbols and the bass drum, and this was referred to, by the Rector, Rev William Orr, who conducted the service.
Interment was at Kernan Cemetery and donation in lieu of flowers are to Patients’ Comfort Fund, Ward 2 North, Craigavon Area Hospital, c/o Milne Funeral Directors, Seagoe Road, Portadown, BT63 5HS.