Amputee survivor writes lifetime memoir

Lumberjack, insurance agent, taxi driver, athlete, immigrant, writer, amputee survivor; they all have one thing in common.

Lumberjack, insurance agent, taxi driver, athlete, immigrant, writer, amputee survivor; they all have one thing in common.

Francis Ruiter was, at one point in his life, each of those things. Right now he’s a poet and published writer.

While cycling in his 50s, Ruiter was hit by a truck and run off the road. It was three years before he could walk without supports.

“I was bored. I couldn’t go back to work, I couldn’t even talk to people,” Ruiter said.

To deal with his boredom, Ruiter took a creative writing class. His talents grew and he was encouraged to publish his writing. But Ruiter didn’t want to write just a book. “I didn’t think they were interesting for a story,” Ruiter said. “In a poem I felt more comfortable,”

Ruiter had heard a humorous poem read at his parent’s 25th anniversary and was impressed. Many years later he decided writing was the business he wanted into next.

Ruiter uses his books to tell the unabashed story of his life, not only as Dutch immigrant, but also as a human being.

One tale narrates how Ruiter would honk the car horn whenever he got impatient. He could see the fault in this and was always genuinely embarrassed he’d succumb to impatience, but he did it anyway.

After the loss of his leg, once he’d come to terms and accepted the situation, Ruiter’s wife, Grace, would occasionally honk the horn as he made his way to the car. Just to good-naturedly teach him a lesson.

Throughout most of his life Ruiter was a serious athlete. He ran marathons, cycled and backpacked in the Rocky Mountains with his daughters.

He placed third in a marathon containing more than 500 runners over the age of 50. That marathon took him three and a half hours to run.

Ruiter grew up as the 10th of 12 children. He was a self-labelled high-strung, playful child and immigrated to Canada with two cousins in 1948.

They boarded a ship, each one wearing a beret emblazoned with the letters T.B.T—The Big Three. To Ruiter and his cousins this was just another adventure.

Throughout his life Ruiter was a restless spirit. Those who read his books are transported on his adventures with him to Holland, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Greece, England, Europe, the United States and Canada.

Most of Ruiter’s narrative stories reflect his past, some capture the present. One of the last entries of his second book, Out of my Mind: In Love with Life, reflects Ruiter’s emotional triumph over being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Ruiter, now 83, has been at the Ponoka farmers market. “I hope there will be a couple dozen people who love reading” Ruiter said, with a laugh.