Ruben D. Suarez, Class of 1943
City Manager, Civic Leader
Ruben D. Suarez was born in Douglas, Arizona on July 2, 1925, but he considers himself a native Tucsonian. His family, which includes two brothers and two sisters, moved to Tucson before the children started school.
In his years at both Safford Elementary and Safford Junior High, the most important things in his life were playing baseball, swimming in the westside irrigation ditches, hiking in the desert, making a few nickels selling newspapers, cleaning yards and working in a grocery store. One of the biggest thrills he had as a newsboy was when Tom Mix, his favorite cowboy, came out of the Santa Rita Hotel and bought all of Ruben’s newspapers for a dollar and patted Ruben on the head. Wow!
In Tucson High Ruben took advantage of the ROTC program, and was also fortunate to become a “Barringer Commando.” Most young men knew they were destined for the service, and Mr. Barringer got them into shape to endure boot camp. Ruben passed “Boot Camp” with flying colors.
After graduation from Tucson High in 1943, Ruben joined the US Navy and served aboard the battleship Pennsylvania. This ship crossed the equator 14 times during her wartime voyages. The first crossing for Ruben, as well as for most of the crew, was very impressive. The old timers put on a regal ceremony attended by King Neptune. Those crossing the equator for the first time were initiated into the “Solemn Deep Mysteries of the Sea,” and were given a certificate indicating they were no longer “Polliwogs” but now had the honor of being true “Rusty Shellbacks of the Order of the Deep.” Ruben has very fond memories of this ceremony.
The Pennsylvania took part in eleven combat amphibious operations from 1943 to 1945—extending from Attu in Alaska to Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines. During his three year tour of duty, Ruben earned seven battle stars and the Navy Unit Citation Ribbon and attained the rank of Signalman Second Class. After service, Ruben returned to Tucson and attended both Business College and the U of A prior to going to work for the City of Tucson.
Offices of the City of Tucson then became Ruben’s second home. He served in many capacities in this employment, from clerk to accountant to auditor to License Supervisor to Revenue Administrator, and finally Budget and Research Director. He served in this last position for 17 years, and shortly after retirement in 1992 was asked if he would consider returning to work as City Manager while a nation-wide search was being conducted for the permanent replacement in the vacant position. “It’s a long climb from clerk to City Manager—that’s why it took me 43 years.”
Retirement has kept Ruben very busy. He became a consultant for the Pima County budgetary process and was also asked to advise the City of Nogales on budget matters. He was contracted by the International Development Corporation to provide city officials from Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, and Nicaragua with examples and instructions in the area of budget and management to enable them to better help communities in the development of their country. This was a very rewarding experience—Ruben felt well repaid by his students by their sharing stories about life in the hills and jungles of these countries.
Ruben has served on many boards, currently he is President of the Community Food Bank, on the Board of the Pima Council on Aging, on the Board of Nosotros and is Chairman of the Supervisory Committee of the Tucson Old Pueblo Credit Union. Previous boards include St. Elizabeth of Hungary Clinic, Manzo Area Council, El Rio Health Center, and the Tucson Center for Women and Children. He also belonged to the American Association of Retired Persons (Minority Spokesperson), the Western States Budget Officer’s Association, the Santa Cruz Valley Water District, and the Municipal Finance Officers Association.
Ruben married the former Nellie Martinez (class of ’45), a past Badger Foundation Board Member. They have three children, Ruben R., Silvia (Yanez) and Irma (Barthle) and boast of their six wonderful grandchildren.
Ruben has felt fortunate all of his life, and believes helping others through service on boards and with other volunteer activities has in a small way helped repay for the “good life” he has enjoyed in Tucson. He considers his being elected into the Hall of Fame at Tucson High a truly great honor, and we are proud to honor him.