John Ruan Obituary

John  Ruan
John Ruan
John Ruan

February 11, 1914 - February 14, 2010
Born in Beacon, IA
Resided in Des Moines, IA
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A public memorial celebration of life for John Ruan will be held at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott at 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 18. John Ruan, a leading business and civic leader, died February 14, 2010 at his home in Des Moines, IA. He was 96.

John Ruan was born February 11, 1914, to Dr. John and Rachel Ruan in Beacon, IA. The family moved to Des Moines in 1930, and John graduated from North High School the following year. After completing his first year at Iowa State College, there was no money left for tuition, and he was forced to leave school and go to work.

On the advice of a friend, John traded one of the family cars for a truck in the summer of 1932 and began hauling gravel for a local road builder. After World War II, his trucking operation grew rapidly, becoming the nation's largest hauler of petroleum products by the end of the 1950s. Along the way, he acquired the taxi service in Des Moines as well as the city's Avis Rent a Car franchise. Today, Ruan Transportation Management Systems (RTMS) operates a fleet of 8, 700 trucks nationally.

John moved beyond transportation in 1964 with his purchase of a majority interest in Bankers Trust Company. Ruan eventually bought all the remaining stock and began branching into other areas including real estate and property management, an import-export business, and a securities firm.

John helped revitalize downtown Des Moines in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974 he built the Ruan Center, which was Des Moines tallest building at 36 stories. He was the lead developer and current owner of the downtown Marriott and soon thereafter erected Ruan Two, another office building adjacent to the Ruan Center. While these facilities were going up, John played a central role in the planning and layout of the skywalk system.

John was also involved in many philanthropic undertakings. Over the years, he gave millions of dollars to his favorite causes. Most notable were his fight against multiple sclerosis and his support of the World Food Prize.

After his wife had been stricken with MS and shortly before his daughter was afflicted and would eventually die from complications of the same disease, he formed the John Ruan MS Charity. In the late 1980s, Ruan established the Ruan Neurological Center at Des Moines' Mercy Medical Center.

In 1990, John and his family established The World Food Prize Foundation to support the prize, "the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have improved the quality or availability of food around the world." In 2001, he and his family pledged $5 million for buying and renovating the downtown Des Moines Public Library building to make it the permanent home for the World Food Prize organization.

He received numerous honors during his lifetime, but he was most humbled when he received the Iowa Award, the state's highest citizen award, in 2001.

John was well known for donning his trademark bow ties, short sleeve white shirts, and wire rimmed glasses. He was a dedicated family man and friend with a passion for hunting, a wry sense of humor, and loved to play the piano and sing.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Elizabeth; two children, John III (Janis) and Thomas; six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. His daughter, Elizabeth Jayne Ruan Fletcher, preceded him in death. In lieu of flowers, the Ruan family asks that donations in memory of Mr. Ruan be sent to The World Food Prize Foundation, 1700 Ruan Center, 666 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309. Condolences may be sent to Ruan Transport Corporation, 666 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50309.

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Downtown Des Moines Marriott
700 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50309
Thursday, February 18, 2010
4:00 PM