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Faces of COVID: Columbus man dies after second battle with COVID-19

Father dies after second battle with COVID-19
Dad at CRH.jpg
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:17:30-05

Thousands of Hoosiers have died since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 and we know — they're more than just numbers. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 and want to share their story reach out to us at

Ralph Rutan was a proud father and grandfather.

The 79-year-old lived most of his life in Columbus, Indiana, and 58 of those years were spent married to the love of his life, Katherine.

Katherine passed away in July of 2019, leaving Ralph alone in the home they built together on the corner of McClure Rd. and McKinley Ave.

When you walk into the house you can immediately tell there was a lot of life lived there. Dozens and dozens of aged pictures cover the walls, VHS tapes are stacked high above the tv in the corner, and a bookshelf is overflowing with books. Most of the literature about religion, Ralph’s passion.

"He would sit there and if you would ask about, how did God create or anything about that dad would automatically pull out his book and say well here's the scripture,” said Christopher Rutan, Ralph’s youngest son.

Along with attending church, Rutan also enjoyed gospel music, playing guitar, and spoiling his Jack Russell terrier, Fred.

“Fred was his pride and joy. Everywhere dad went he would go too. He would even go to church when we had service,” said Rutan.

Ralph died of COVID-19 on December 28, just one day after his 79th birthday.

Rutan says his father battled COVID-19 two times. He first caught the virus in July of last year and recovered.

Ralph caught it again just a few months later in November. The second round was far more serious.

Rutan brought his father to the hospital in Columbus but Ralph was transferred to Indianapolis because there were not enough beds.

After spending weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, Ralph was well enough to return home just in time for Christmas.

"All the family came to see him, and I think that's the last thing he really wanted to do was see his family,” said Rutan.

But the following day something wasn’t right so Rutan brought his father back to the hospital. That’s when they learned Ralph had pneumonia. The next day he had a stroke and died shortly after.

Rutan was devastated by the loss. He says his father was his rock. But he is able to find comfort when he steps out on the porch of his father’s home where he now lives.

Just across the street lie his parents in their final resting place.

"They're in lot number 91 so right by the tree,” said Rutan.

At least, their final resting place on earth, "I knew my mom went to heaven and I knew he went to heaven and I knew they were together and that's what he wanted."

MORE STORIES | We're honoring the memories of these Hoosiers who died with COVID-19

You can read Ralph W. Rutan's obituary below.

Ralph W. Rutan, 79, of Columbus, died at 2:12 am, December 28, 2020, date, at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Ralph was born December 27, 1941, in Bartholomew County, the son of Ralph G. and Ruth Marie (Swango) Rutan. He married Katherine (Purtlebaugh) on November 22, 1960, she passed on July 13, 2019.

Ralph worked for Marsh supermarket for 43 years before retiring. He loved to attend church and travel. To friends and family, he was lovingly known as the Bible Thumper and an avid guitar player. Ralph enjoyed keeping company with his faithful friend, his dog, Fred. Ralph will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Memorials may be made to the Bartholomew County Humane Society.

Survivors include sons, Timothy W. (Donna) Rutan, of Edinburgh and Chris W. (Velma) E. Rutan, of Columbus; a daughter, Rallena Jeannie (James) Imlay, of Columbus; a brother, Marvin Lee Rutan, of Columbus; sisters, Velma Garries, and Marjorie Jewell, both of Columbus.

He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Raymond E. Rutan, and a sister, Evelyn Hatfield.