Share this Tribute

Let the family know you
care by sharing this tribute.

Jerry Ruelf


erry Ruelf, 93 of Ocala, and formerly of St. Petersburg, FL, died January 7th 2018 at his home.


At the age of 17, he joined the Army Air Corps and served in the 101st Airborne Division. On one mission, his unit came under attack and after his glider was cut loose the pilot was killed by German forces. PFC Jerry Ruelf landed the glider as a non-pilot, saving the lives of the many men onboard. They were immediately surrounded by the Germans. Jerry communicated with the enemy before being taken prisoners and probably saved their lives twice on that day. He was decorated with a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart for his actions on that day. He was also awarded a POW medal, a European Theatre Ribbon with two bronze service stars, a WW2 Victory Ribbon and the American Service Medal.

Life and Family

After the war, Jerry earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He moved to St. Petersburg, FL and became a teacher, retiring as the Vocational Assistant Principal of Dixie Hollins High School. In 1971, as the head coach at Dixie Hollins, not only was the team undefeated, but won city, conference, and district meets. Under his guidance and coaching, many a swimmer and diver went on to the collegiate level. He was recognized as being a Hall of Fame Swim Coach at both Boca Ciega and Dixie Hollins High Schools. After retiring from teaching, he was a Real Estate Broker and farmer in Ocala, as well.

He was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Ocala. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary Jean Ruelf, Ocala, his son, Dr. Mike (Maria) Ruelf, Tampa, a daughter, Sandra (Mayor Kent) Guinn, Ocala, and his sister, Caroline Fierst, Silver Spring, MD. Also, survived by four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.


Graveside funeral services, with full military honors, will be held at Florida National Cemetery, Friday, January 12th at 11:30 AM in Bushnell.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to either Operation Toy Soldier, PO Box 4122, Bay Pines, FL 33744 or a veterans association of your choice.

Friends, family and those who served with Jerry are invited to share a memory and sign his guestbook below.

Leave a condolence

Email addresses will not be displayed on this site.

  • Jim & Kim Rudolph says:

    I was a student at Dixie Hollins High School, Class of 1976. I remember “Mr. Ruelf” as we called him, very well. He was quiet and humble and he was well liked. As a student I don’t think any of us knew about his WW ll service. Now that I am an adult, knowing what he did for our great nation, and the extent of the peril he was in, I am humbled and grateful that he made it out. And that he became a teacher. And we had him with us in St. Petersburg. May God bless the memory of Jerry Ruelf, and comfort his sweet wife and their children.

  • Jeff Rudolph says:

    I too was a student at Dixie Hollins High School, Class of 1977. I remember “Mr. Ruelf” very well as one of our Asst. Principals as he worked alongside of Ron Hallam, our Principal. I took welding classes and I remember Mr. Ruelf as a kind man, who was sort of quiet and he well liked by our fellow students.

    After hearing of his death and reading about his military service, I am stunned that we never knew that such a distinquished hero served our country and Dixie Hollins High School. I pray God’s blessings and peace upon his whole family and I pray for God’s comfort upon you all.

  • Kimberly Cauler says:

    My condolences to your family during this sad time. Although I never met him, I work at Dixie Hollins and wanted to pay my respects to such an amazing man.

  • Donna M Steele says:

    I was a student at Dixie Hollins High School, class of 1968. I enjoyed working with Jerry Ruelf as a student assistant in the front office when he was Dean of Boys. He was always respectful of the students and did a great job of coaching Swimming with Joy Brown. Lots of good memories. I also did not know of his accomplishments and honors in WWII. Hugs and prayers to his family.

  • Don Walls says:

    I had the privilege of working with Jerry from 1973 until his retirement. I found him to be the most honorable man. His integrity and dedication as a leader to vocational education was an inspiration to all teachers and students alike. He was my role model. My condolences to Mary Jean and family. Don Walls

  • Bill Latimer says:

    Dear Mike and family, my thoughts and prayers are with you all during this difficult time. Swimming with the team and Coach Ruelf was the best. My first plane trip from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Pete! I am sure that he is where the great people go! Bill Latimer

  • Captain Little Jim Fesperman says:

    I was in the class of 1963 and Mr. Ruelf was the teacher that taught me more than just what was in the text books, he challenged us with life lessons that have help guide me all of my life. He never spoke of his military career however, after learning of war record I now know I was one of the lucky one’s who had Mr. Ruelf as a role model. Thank you sir!
    My condolence to the family.

  • doc Wester says:

    Wow! ! Who knew we were fortunate to have a real hero as a teacher and coach? I always knew that there was something special about Coach Ruelf . God bless and keep his family. DHHS 1962 SEMPER FI

  • Merna Colen Brein says:

    Jerry Ruelf was my swim coach at Dixie from 1965-1968. He was tough and we respected him as he respected us. Swim On, Mr. Ruelf!!!

  • Merna Colen Brein says:

    Jerry Ruelf was my swim coach at Dixie from 1965-1968. He was tough and we respected him as he respected us. Swim on, Mr. Ruelf!

  • Ray Osmond Plato says:

    Jerry was a teacher at Disston Jr. High while I was a student there in the early 50s.then at Boggie. I taught with him at Dixie Hollins for a few years. I remember him as a gentleman and a talented teacher. may he rest in peace

  • Keith A. Arnold, Sr. says:

    Mrs. Ruelf, Sandra and Mike, I share in your loss of a great teacher, coach and mentor. Coach Ruelf was like a second father to me. He was not only my classroom instructor and swim team coach, but he provided employment for me at the Florida Power Club and Teachers’ Club doing pool maintenance and lifeguarding and helping him clear and mow overgrown lots in the St. Petersburg area. I was aware that Coach served during WWII, but he never revealed the details of his service. Thank you for your service, Coach Ruelf. Blessings and Prayers to the Ruelf Family.

  • Chris and Sherry (Blonshine) McBee says:

    Dear Mike &Family,
    It was such an honor to swim at Dixie for Coach Ruelf from 1967-1970. He taught us so much more than swimming skills – he taught us all to expect more from ourselves and that hard work and self discipline would pay off. He set such high standards for everyone – and we all loved and respected him for it. Clearly “Firm, but always fair” defined him. What a great role model! He definitely had such a positive impact on my life and I know with great certainty that his impact was felt by all who knew him. Our world could use many more Jerry Ruelfs. It was a life well lived. Our sympathy to his family.
    Chris MeBee (‘68) & Sherry Blonshine McBee (‘70)

  • Monica Gatto Frederick says:

    I was a student at Dixie. Class of 77. I remember Mr.Ruelf very clearly walking the halls. I wish we would have lnow

  • Monica Gatto Frederick says:

    I was a student at Dixie. Class of 77. I remember Mr.Ruelf very clearly walking the halls. I wish we would have known about his military service. Condolences to the family. RIP

  • rebecca mewbernSO SORRY says:


  • Cecilia Guynn says:

    My sincere condolences to Sandra Guinn and the entire Ruelf family. Her father was my swim coach at the Florida Power Club and he was one of the kindest, most patient men I ever knew. He understood how to encourage and get the best out of his team members while being lots of fun in the meanwhile. My brother, sister, and I looked up to Coach and admired him greatly. We pray for comfort and peace to the Ruelf family. May God bless you all.

  • Dick Herden says:

    Mrs. Ruelf & family, so sorry to hear of coach’ passing. He was my coach at Bogie 1957 – 59 and coached me at FPC. Also visited in the forest. Never knew of his military service, which is not surprising, he was not interested in self recognition.

  • Jeffrey Etter says:

    Mr. Ruelf was the Dean of Boys when I went to Dixie (Class of 1973). I liked him and found him to be a fair and decent man when I was a student. However, it is through the benefit of age that we come to understand the dedication that men like Jerry Ruelf had towards improving the lives of the kids who passed through his life.

    Mr. Ruelf… The final bell has rung and I would like to say thank you for a job well done.

  • Jim Gollogly says:

    I was privlidged to have Mr Ruelf as my history teacher and swim coach at Dixie Hollins (class of 1964)
    He challenged us to do our best as students as well as athletes. Not surprised to hear of his military heroics. He was a tough task master but you always knew he valued you as an individual and team member and treated you with respect.
    He was a true leader and would not leave you behind as a student, swimmer, or a member of his military unit.
    My heartfelt Condolences to the Ruelf family.

    Jim Gollogly
    LCDR USN (Retired)

  • Karen Dockham says:

    Mike & Sandy : So sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. After leaving Dixie, I ran into him in Ocala and to my surprise, he remembered me! May your memories of him bring smiles and peace. Keeping you in thought and prayer. Karen

  • Kim (Rudolph) Jeffers says:

    I was a student at Dixie Hollies, Class of 78, and remember Mr. Ruelf very well. I remember him standing in the “patio” area with Mr. Hallam watching over us. I’m grateful for his service to our country and was very surprised to read of his distinguished service. Hero’s are always quiet about their service. Rest In Peace Mr Ruelf.

  • Ken LaDelfa says:

    My sincerest condolences to Jerry’s family. He was my diving coach & my brother, Larry’s, swimming coach from 1964-1968. We have many fond memories of those years, thanks in part to him. Jerry was tough on all of us but very fair. He taught me to excel through perseverance. He taught us to give it our best when competing. Jerry took great pride in coaching & also as Dean of Boys. He will be missed by all.

  • Marshall & Juana Johnson says:

    The short time my wife and I knew Jerry it truly was amazing. Jerry and Mary Jean gave us a new start and provided for our family when life was so challenging, and for that we will be forever grateful. May you fly with the angels now Jerry. God Bless you and your family in this difficult time.
    Forever grateful, The Johnson Family

  • Carol Othen France says:

    I was a student at Disston Jr High in 1953/54.Mr Ruelf was my home room teacher and civics or history teacher I don’t remember day in class he told us about some of his experiences as a POW. It was a very powerful story which is still fresh in my mind. I think he was explaining to us that you can get thru almost anything if you hang in there long enough and believe in yourself. That is the only time he spoke to us about his experiences but it was something I will never forget. I was also on the swim team at Boca Ciega for two years and he was the coach. He was respected and loved by all his students and had a great sense of humor. He made a difference in many lives and will be missed by many.

  • Holly Fannin says:

    One of the greatest teachers and coaches I have ever had in my life. He taught me so much and was like a father to me giving me life lessons and guidance. His memory will remain with me as it has for the last nearly 50 years as a shining beacon for excellence. Thank you Mr Ruelf, you will be missed.

  • RoseAnn Vasquez Kirbach says:

    Mr. Ruelf was not only my swimming coach from 1964 to 1967 but my mentor and dear friend. His support was essential to me getting through school. I admired him so very much! I had no idea about his valor during the war, but it does not surprise me. He was a great man, a wonderful coach and fantastic mentor. I have missed him over the years and have thought of him often. My prayers are with the family. God Bless you Mr. Reulf, may perpetual light shine upon you and may you always rest in peace! Much love, Roe and Matt Kirbach.