KENNEWICK — Victor "Red" Rutherford, 86, a longtime Tri-City businessman and civic leader, died Thursday at Hospice at the Chaplaincy in Kennewick.
Rutherford, known to older Tri-Citians as "Red, the trailer king" for his many years as a mobile-home salesman, worked as a self-employed developer who established a number of businesses, including Red's Trailer Mart and Sun Meadows Mobile Home Park.
He was a leader in the mobile home industry for more than a half century, serving as president of the Washington State Mobile Home Dealers, the Columbia Basin chapter of the Mobile Home Dealers and the Washington Mobile Home Parks Association.
Longtime friends said he always had a joke to share and a hand to shake.
Jack Yale of Kennewick said he first met Rutherford in the 1950s.
"I almost bought a travel trailer from him," he said. "We kept in touch all through the years. Once in a while, while he was still in the trailer business, I'd stop off and have coffee and B.S. with him.
"Red was one of those kind of guys you hang on to. He was one of the good guys," Yale said.
Rutherford was a tireless worker for community projects.
He worked to start the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and was a longtime backer of Meals on Wheels, Tri-Cities Prep high school, Special Olympics, the Humane Society, Boy Scouts, St. Joseph's Church, Shriners and a host of other causes.
In 1993, he was the driving force behind a raffle that raised almost $90,000 for the cancer center, then under construction. He donated a 1994 Ford Taurus, the grand prize.
He organized a similar raffle in 1999 to help raise money for video cameras for patrol cars after Washington State Patrol Trooper James Saunders was shot and killed in Pasco during a routine traffic stop.
"I personally worked with Red on several projects, including The Great Kid Car Raffle, in which Kiwanis helped raise money for the Children's Developmental Center's new facility," Kirk Williamson of Kennewick wrote in an e-mail. "He was quick with a joke, quicker to find a way to help and generous with his resources. If he had it and you needed it, he made sure you had it."
Rutherford also is known for his work with the Kiwanis.
Dean Strawn of Kennewick sat next to Rutherford at Kennewick Kiwanis meetings every Tuesday for decades.
"When I first came to the Tri-Cities, I heard Red could be a very difficult person to deal with. But after I met him, I waited a very, very long time looking for that part of him to show. It never did," Strawn said. "I found him to be always an amiable person, willing to give the shirt off his back if you just asked for it. Frankly, after 40 some years, I cannot recall anything negative about him at all."
Though many might not recognize Rutherford's name, anyone who has regularly attended the Benton-Franklin County Fair likely has handed him an admission ticket or had a hand stamped by him. He coordinated ticket sales and organized volunteers to work the entry gates and sell tickets for almost 40 years.
He also was active in the Kennewick Kiwanis Club's annual gift program to ensure children at Bailie's Memorial Youth Ranch had Christmas gifts. As a Kiwanian, he helped push development of the Family Fishing Pond at the east end of Columbia Park.
Rutherford also established the Kennewick Kiwanis Foundation, which raises money to support youth-oriented projects. The Rutherford Scholarship is named for him and his wife, Sally.
Rutherford was named Kennewick's Man of the Year in 1996 and Tri-Citian of the Year in 2002. He also was grand marshal of the annual fair parade in 1992.
He was honored twice, in 1990 and 1994, as Kiwanian of the Year, and also received the George F. Hixson Award, one of the highest International Kiwanis honors.
Viewing will be Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Mueller's Chapel of the Falls in Kennewick, with Rosary to be recited starting at 6 p.m.
Services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the new building at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Kennewick.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com