In mid December of 1999, Bart hosted a holiday party for friends and family. Despite living in a 700 square foot apartment, he invited 80 people. As his guests filled the space, Bart, dressed in a red Christmas vest, flowed throughout the crowd. Conversation bubbled with remarks of, "only Bart could have this many friends."
As a child, Christmas annually commenced Bart's family ski trip to Bromley Mountain. He spent the following days tearing down the mountain, the laughter of his siblings echoing behind him. When Bart moved to New York, he continued to drive to Vermont for weekends of skiing. He invited all types of friends, old and new, to Bromley. "Oh, you don't know how to ski? No worries, you'll pick it up fast". Inevitably, at the end of the day, he would be at the bottom of the mountain. Two beers in hand, one for the friend, who had taken one too many tumbles, and one for himself.
Bart wasn't the kind of friend who just knew your name and where you worked. Bart knew that your sister was having a baby in June, that you finally got a promotion at work, that you ran three miles last week despite never run before. He boasted about his friend's accomplishments as if they were his own, telling anyone who would listen how proud he was. He cared so deeply for those around him that he valued their happiness over anything else.
On September 11th, 2001, Bart was at his desk in the South Tower and was killed. At his wake, his family noticed a trend; people, some of whom Bart hadn't spoken of in years, claimed that they talked to Bart just last week. He called them to check in. These were friends from his third grade class or from La Salle military academy where he went to high school or from his first job out of college. Bart was a home for other people. His personality invited people inside. Once you were on his call list, there was seldom chance of being removed.
In his honor, friends and family founded the Bart J Ruggerie Adaptive Sports Center. In combining his love for skiing, helping others, and bringing people together, this program embodies his spirit. With the help of this center, children with disabilities, veterans, and people of all walks of life have the resources, instructors, and facilities to ski down the mountain, the sound of their families' laughter echoing behind them.
By Caroline Challe