Kim Ruble went from one adventure to the next, making friends with seemingly everyone he met along the way.
The 65-year-old Redtail Aviation pilot, who was killed this week when his plane crashed into a power line near Canyonlands Field Airport, loved to get out and explore, and he shared that passion with others, from relative strangers to close friends.
“He had such a zest for life and a sense of adventure – it was amazing,” said former Redtail coworker Misty Adams, who met Ruble shortly after he became the company’s lead Moab-area pilot. “That was definitely part of his personality: getting out and having a good time.”
His upbeat attitude was infectious, Adams said, almost as though he had a light within him. People couldn’t help but be happy when they found themselves in Ruble’s presence, she said, even if they happened to be in a bad mood just a few moments before.
“I just don’t think that you could leave his presence without feeling like you’d made a new friend,” she said.
Moab Coffee Roasters Manager Brent Adams, who is not related to Misty Adams, also remembers Ruble for his upbeat spirit, which may have reached its peak when he was in the air.
“He made the comment, ‘As long as I’m flying, I’m happy,’” he said.
Brent Adams said he last saw Ruble on Sunday, Dec. 11, when the regular customer and honorary Mad Hatters Coffee Club member dropped by the coffee roasters for another cup.
“The last thing he said as he headed out that door was he had a flight first thing Monday morning,” he said.
According to Grand County Emergency Management Director Rick Bailey, the accident occurred around 5:48 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, about 1 mile southwest of Canyonlands Field’s landing strip.
Bailey said that Ruble had just taken off to perform a contracted delivery for United Parcel Service (UPS) when his single-engine Quest Kodiak 100 plane struck the power line, causing it to break.
At that point, Bailey said, the plane crashed to the ground and became engulfed in flames. No one else was on board the plane at the time of the accident.
Representatives from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services crews responded to the scene, along with officials from the Moab Valley Fire District, Utah Highway Patrol, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the airport.
Ruble was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rocky Mountain Power crew members subsequently arrived at the scene working to repair the line. Bailey said that representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting an investigation of the accident.
Ruble, a native of Marietta and Waterford, Ohio, was a member of Millwright’s Local Union 1755 and a veteran who was stationed with the 385th Military Police Batallion at Cooke Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany, in the early 1970s.
He and his wife Lisa Kussmaul moved from Montana to Moab in early 2011 to work at the Moab KOA Campground; Ruble later became Redtail’s chief local pilot.
In a brief Facebook post to his friends, family members and acquaintances, Kussmaul called her husband “the love of my life, soulmate, and my whole world.”
“We had such fun adventures and plans for the future,” she wrote. “(He) was the most kind and wonderful man (…) utter devastation (can’t) describe how I feel.”
Former Moab resident Chris Garrison flew with Ruble for three years, and he called his friend one of the greatest – if not the greatest – people he knew in the community.
“Hearing that easily identifiable voice on the radio brought joy to the skies and lifted us up that much more,” Garrison said in an online tribute to Ruble. “There aren’t too many people that you can tell they’re smiling just from the sound of their voice. Not only did Kim possess that ability, but he ALWAYS had the sound of an ear to ear smile in his voice that everyone could appreciate.”
Ruble was avid explorer of the West
The weekend before the accident, Ruble joined his coworkers in Salt Lake City to celebrate at a Redtail Aviation party. According to one of his last Facebook posts, he had to drive to the party because inclement weather made the relatively short flight impossible.
After he arrived, he went ice skating in downtown Salt Lake, dined at an Italian restaurant and took in performances by the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was back home in Moab on Sunday, Dec. 11, just in time to take photos of the alpenglow over the La Sal Mountains, and to grab a cup of coffee from the coffee roasters.
Judging by his Facebook posts and his friends’ recollections, it was a fairly typical day in his life.
Misty Adams said that Ruble enjoyed sharing photos and tales of his experiences in the air, on a trail or while he was off on some other adventure.
“He was just so excited to show you what was going on in his life,” she said.
As a Redtail pilot, Ruble took his clients on flights around the vast area between Moab and Page, Arizona, and from the skies high above the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park’s Waterpocket Fold.
One time, Brent Adams said, he mentioned that he was interested in flying, so Ruble invited Adams and his wife on a personal tour, looping around the greater Canyonlands area.
“It was his personal plane,” Brent Adams said. “If he could share it with you, he would.”
Misty Adams said that Ruble extended the same invitation to her husband David, and he went out of his way to make the experience a memorable one.
In his downtime, Ruble might be doing something like riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to have lunch in the mountains above Albuquerque.
Just a few weeks later, he would be up in the air with singer Katy Perry and actor Orlando Bloom, taking them on one of many flights he piloted this summer to the Burning Man gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
On one of those occasions, he almost crossed paths with President Barack Obama: Air Force One was parked on the nearby tarmac at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and Ruble – an admirer of the president and a gentle teaser of his critics – told his friends that he wished he had a chance to shake Obama’s hand.
His Facebook posts since 2009 detail years and years of similar adventures that took him across the country, from Moab to his hometown in Ohio to Montana and beyond.
Brent Adams said that although he and his wife didn’t know Ruble especially well, they felt “super, super close” to him.
“We just hit it off,” he said. “He hit it off with everybody, I think.”
Misty Adams said it’s hard to describe the kind of person that Ruble was, then added that he definitely touched the lives of everyone he met.
“I’ve never known a kinder, more generous, happier person,” she said.
Ruble is survived by his wife Lisa Kussmaul and daughters Michelle (Jonathan) Ruble-Denes, Christie Lynn Ruble and Elisabeth Rose (Noah) Shook. He is also survived by grandchildren Morgan Alexander Denes and Mena Mei-Xin Denes and by his sisters Karen Rose Ruble and Sheryne (Jerry) Merkel. He was preceded in death by parents Rose Cody Ruble and Frederick Donald Ruble, and by sister Janet Kay Burt.
Kim Ruble remembered for his adventurous spirit, welcoming personality
I’ve never known a kinder, more generous, happier person.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. at Canyonlands Field Airport. The service will be open to the public; anyone who would like to attend will be directed to the service at one of the airport’s hangars.