It’s safe to say Larry Ruminson was Rancho Cotate High School’s original BMOC (Big Man on Campus).
He was the student body president of Rancho Cotate’s first graduating class in 1968, he was active in sports and was named as his senior class’ Best All-Around Boy.
Ruminson has gone through and seen many changes in his life, but Rancho Cotate High remains a big part of his life, as well as that of his family.
His wife, Josephine, also was part of Rancho Cotate’s first graduating class. Although they were classmates, they didn’t get married until 1984. Together, they raised three children – Jennifer (1990 Rancho grad), Abagail (1992) and Andrew (2002). Plus, they have a grandson Jacob Rutherford, who is a junior at Rancho Cotate.
“And we have two more on the way to the Ranch,” Ruminson stated with pride.
The couple live in a nice home in the D section of Rohnert Park and both are retired.
Jo’s biggest regret
Josephine retired from the nursing profession. She said her biggest regret was not going into nursing school right out of high school instead of getting married. Larry is her second husband.
“I was just coming out of a marriage, and Larry was just ending his engagement,” she said. “And we decided to go out for Chinese food, and then we went wine tasting. I knew him for a long time. I knew he came from a good family and that he was a nice man. Things just worked out.”
Whereas Josephine, who declined to appear on the cover of this special section with her husband, was born and raised locally (Cotati), Ruminson migrated north from San Francisco with his family in 1965 and attended what was then known as Rohnert Park Junior-Senior High School, where students ranged from seventh to 12th grades.
Moving north from a metropolitan area such as San Francisco to rural Sonoma County, especially an undeveloped area such as Rohnert Park and Cotati, proved to be a godsend for Ruminson. The move allowed him to take part in more school activities, which he did with gusto.
“I came from a large school in San Francisco where there were about 1,200 students, and to come up here to an experience like this, with less than 500, you couldn’t help but feel drawn to what was going on, whether it be student government clubs during school time or the sports program,” Ruminson said. “Our sports teams didn’t have great records but you felt part of something. So it was a very positive experience, especially coming from Bay Area. Rohnert Park was still in its infancy. At that time there very little development from the railroad tracks going east. I think they had just started C section, so the Ranch was out there by itself so to speak.”
Eventually, the school as well as Rohnert Park, grew. And now there are housing developments around the campus as well as shopping areas.
Ruminson pretty much stayed local after graduation. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College right out of high school and eventually wound up graduating from Sonoma State University in 1972. Ruminson worked for the Rohnert Park Recreation Dept. as a lifeguard and pool manager for eight summers. He eventually ventured into retail management and worked in the trucking and construction industry. In 1978, he found his life’s work at PG&E, where he worked for 31 years before retiring. He worked in warehouse operations and at the Geysers power plant.
Always drawn to Sonoma County
“I spent some time in the City, but I was always drawn back to Sonoma County,” he said.
Rancho Cotate definitely changed the landscape of Rohnert Park. Actually, Ruminson believes it helped unify the city.
“Rohnert Park was very young, but I think the high school brought it together,” Ruminson said. “I know it was quite the controversy to get it built out there and it took a while. Once they started to do it, it was very positive. I think now probably the high school has a greater influence because of local sports, and they’re doing very well in football and they’re established.
Both Larry and his wife believe those in charge who are doing the 50th anniversary have their timing off.
“We really feel it’s a year early,” Jo said. “We didn’t begin until fall of 67.”
Still, both Jo and Larry were happy to be there from the beginning.
“We got to pick the name, the colors, the mascot,” said Jo, who also was involved in extracurricular activities in the school’s early days. “I was a song leader…they don’t have those anymore.”
She recalls her high school days fondly as well, with one tiny exception. As a senior, she was named as her class’ Most Flirtatious.
“I think it should have said friendliest girl,” she said with a tinge of embarrassment. “It got me in a little bit of trouble. My father was not happy with that, plus, I don’t think I was. Larry, was I?”
“No you weren’t,” Larry answered.
The opening of Rancho Cotate was a big relief and time saver for Jo. Before Rohnert Park Junior-Senior High opened, students from Rohnert Park and Cotati were bused to Petaluma High.
“That took all day,” she said. “We got on the bus at 6:30 in the morning and didn’t get home until 4 in the afternoon. We were the first to be picked up and last to be dropped off. It was kind of impossible to do that every day. Then they built the junior-senior high school and it changed everything…it was wonderful.”
For the basketball team, the new school meant there were no more bus rides to Kenilworth in Petaluma to practice basketball from 5-7 p.m. There were no more football games being played in Petaluma.
What Jo and Larry recall with fondness was the tight-knit community of the junior-senior high school. In fact, when reunions are held, those who were in seventh grade through the 12th are always invited. The seventh-graders were treated like high-schoolers.
“If you can imagine when you’re in the eighth grade at the junior-senior high and you wanted to go to the football game you were part of it,” Larry said. “You were at the rallies so you felt like you were part of the high school experience.”
Ruminson at the time said he never really thought about being named Best All-Around Boy but the honor eventually sank in.
“I know I had been involved in a lot of things like sports, student government, and it was a very good feel to be part of the school because you knew everybody. My first reaction was I was honored they considered doing that. We didn’t get our yearbooks until two months after graduation, and I think it sunk in more when I got the yearbook.”
Prospect of Vietnam looms over students
There was one issue during that time that loomed over just about every teenager – the war in Vietnam.
“We were all very aware of that because at that time, there was the draft,” he said. “As a male or anyone graduating, you had to be very conscious of that. You either went to college or you had to fulfill your military obligation. I never went into the military, I went to school and I never was drafted, but there were a number of people from our class who did go. We did lose some people in Vietnam.”
The other conscious effort at the time, he said, was basically some of the initial things in the environment.
“The book out at the time was “Silent Spring,” and there was the usage of pesticides,” Larry said. “There was much more consciousness of population control and impact of what we were doing to the earth…the usage of energy with the gas prices skyrocketing a couple years later.
So, there was quite a push to be a little more sensitive about the environment. We had a lot going on at SSU at the time because they were conscious of it. By the time I got to SSU in 1970, most of it had settled down. San Francisco State had considerable problems. We never had anything like that at SSU. It happened but we weren’t as close to it as what you saw on the news.”
Rancho Cotate High has been good to Larry, Jo and their family. And he will defend it against disparaging comments about his alma mater.
“People start talking about the Ranch, and people have some very specific concerns about public high schools and where kids should go,” Larry said. “They have a tendency to reference going to private schools in Santa Rosa and sometimes they say discouraging things about the Ranch. And I have to remind them I was the first graduating class, and guess what my daughters and son graduated from the Ranch, and I have a grandson there. There’s a certain amount of pride.”