“Look mom, there’s Stanta Claus!”
The girls didn’t misspeak – rather, that’s what everyone called Stan Ruchlewicz, who would graciously play St. Nick in the Downtown Santa House every holiday season. It is sad to know that this past Christmas was the last time we would ever see him play that role; Stan died suddenly from a heart attack on Tuesday.
As the administrator of economic development for the City of Westminster, Stan wore many hats. He was the driving force behind marching bands for parades, the coordinator of downtown activities, and the ever-persistent seeker of participants for downtown events, from Midnight Madness and Starlight Shopping to the Farmers’ Markets and First Thursdays.
Since 2001, Stan was the “go to” person for all things downtown. He knew what properties were available for new businesses, which businesses were having a sale, who had a new idea. Stan would send weekly updates about all things Westminster to keep everyone in the loop. And since Stan’s hallmark was his personal touch, he would also walk the streets, going door to door downtown to personally provide news – or just to check in and see how everything was going.
“I am really going to miss looking out my window and seeing Stan coming to or leaving work with his little backpack on his back and knowing if I needed anything all I had to do was step out of my door and holler,” says Michelle Seitz, co-owner of Clementine’s.
Always the cheerleader for the City, Stan was likely the first person a business owner sought out – for advice, questions, or any information. With a gleam in his eye, he would tell you that he would get an answer, find a solution, or solve a problem. When we first opened ArtWorks in 2003, he was a frequent, friendly face to reassure us that our new boutique was a good idea – and pointed us in the right direction to get everything done.
A funeral service will be held for Stan Ruchlewicz at 3pm Friday at Haight Funeral Home in Sykesville. Please note that some downtown businesses are planning to attend the service and may be closed for a few hours on Friday afternoon to honor their fallen friend.
To help remember Stan in the heart of where he worked, a memorial garden is also being created in his name. Shawn Lockhart, owner of Eclecticity, and Gordon Wickes, owner of Cross Country Travel, will lead an effort to create the Stan Ruchlewicz Memorial Garden, on the corner of Winters and John Streets. “We'll begin working on the Memorial Garden this Sunday at 1pm,” says Shawn Lockhart. Please contact her at 240-409-4863 if you are interested in helping to create this garden.
With all that he did for downtown, Stan playing Santa seems to hold the fondest memory. “I remember one snowy, frigid Saturday when Stan was in the Santa House,” says Toni Pomeroy, owner of Pomeroy Jewelers. “There was no heat in the House and Stan was freezing, but he refused to leave, for fear that even one child would be disappointed if he wasn’t there.”
And that’s the kind of man Stan was – giving, cheerful, and never wanting to let anyone down. Stan, we’ll miss seeing you around downtown.