September 12, 2011
Family remembers Willet man’s ‘bravery’ in cancer fight
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Together with friends and family, Jessica Rutan, left, releases balloons Saturday in Willet in honor of her husband, Clayton “Fudd” Rutan, who died of leukemia recently.
WILLET — Clayton “Fudd” Rutan’s family and friends define him not by the cancer that took his life Monday, but by the example he set by spending four years fighting it.
They sent 200 balloons into the air Saturday in Rutan’s memory. The 36-year-old Willet man was laid to rest Saturday in Taylor Rural Cemetery. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2007.
About 200 of his friends and family gathered outside the Willet Fire Department for the balloon send-off. The balloons were orange, which is the color of leukemia awareness.
Rutan’s family said it was his ongoing optimism over the past four years that set him apart.
Everyone who showed up Saturday wore T-shirts that read: “I never knew a real hero — until Fudd became one.”
“They should remember how brave he was, his strength,” said Rutan’s wife, Jessica.
Rutan underwent extensive chemotherapy treatment over the years at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, where he died after keeping the sickness at bay for four years.
He was interviewed last year about his cancer battle for the Ridley Scott documentary “Life in a Day,” and appeared briefly when the final cut premiered in January. The 90-minute film chronicled pieces of life of one day in 2010 and featured clips of people from 192 countries going about their routines
When interviewed by the Cortland Standard in January, Rutan said optimism was his best weapon against the disease.
Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood that progresses quickly unless treated, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Treating it is considered difficult. Almost 9,000 people died in 2010 from the same form of leukemia Rutan contracted, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I remember the day we found he had leukemia and he’s the one that held us together — he hugged us and said it was going to be OK,” said his sister-in-law Desi Stafford. “He was inspiring and courageous up until the moment we lost him.”
His condition worsened recently, his body was no longer strong enough and there was no longer a viable treatment, Rutan’s family members said. He required several trips each month to Buffalo for treatment over the past four years.
September is recognized as Leukemia Awareness Month, Stafford added.
Rutan also leaves behind a 13-year-old son, Damien, and an 8-year-old daughter, Desilinn.
“He’s my hero all right,” Damien said Saturday.
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