Ruben (Jack) John Rutten

Date of Birth

March 2, 1927

Date of Death

January 6, 2009

City of Death

Santa Barbara

One of Goleta Valley’s Pioneer Doctor

Dr. Ruben John (Jack) Rutten passed away at 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 on his beloved wife, Laura’s 78th birthday, with members of his family at his side. Dr. Rutten was a loving and devout, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His strong sense of character and principal touched many lives. He was a leader in the Local Medical Community and served as the Goleta Valley Community Hospital’s first Chief of Staff.

Ruben John Rutten was born in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota on March 2, 1927 to Mary Kae Killelea and Ruben Joseph Rutten, D.D.S. He grew up in Langdon, North Dakota with his sisters, Janis Olson, and Nora Johnson. Jack left high school early to serve in the United States Navy at the end of WW 11 and later went back to serve in the Korean War. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles in 1947. He then returned to North Dakota and entered the University of North Dakota and graduated in June, 1951 with a physics degree. He married his high school sweetheart, Laura Mae Crockett, on August 20, 1950 and the happy couple moved on to Oregon so Jack could enter Medical school at the University of Portland. In 1953 Jack and Laura moved on to San Diego, California where he fulfilled his internship and obligation to the Navy at Balboa Hospital which included the delivery of many babies. In October, 1954 the couple’s first son, Randy was born there.

Laura, Jack and Randy moved to Goleta, California in 1955 where he became associated with an obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Bert Zeener, and became Goleta’s first general practitioner. He diligently served the community from his office on Hollister Avenue and routinely made house calls to his patients at all hours of the day and night. In November, 1957 Jack and Laura’s second son, Raul, was born. Laura and Jack became active in the community from their start in Goleta. Jack served as President of the Goleta Lions Club and was their bulletin editor for 30 years. He served on the Board of Directors for the Goleta Valley Community Hospital (now Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital) and the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital’s Board of Trustees and maintained privileges at both of these hospitals as well as Saint Francis hospital in Santa Barbara, California.

In 1971, Jack left his private practice in Goleta and joined the Santa Barbara Medical Clinic. He eagerly designed and implemented the Clinic’s first computer based multi-phasic health testing program while continuing to see patients in his specialty of family practice.

The sea and flying his own airplane always brought a great deal of enjoyment and inspiration to Jack’s life. He loved scuba diving with his best friend and colleague, H. Vernon Friedell, M.D. and later with his second son, Raul. Together they would never fail to bring back a limit of abalone, an occasional lobster and loads of scallops every Sunday from their dives off local beaches.

Through his work at General Motors “Sea Operations” Jack would routinely go into a decompression chamber along with divers, who where suffering from decompression sickness aka “The Bends” in order to monitor their recovery first-hand. Jack earned special recognition for this service and in 1973 Jack was asked to serve as a physician on a top-secret project by the U.S. Government, which utilized Howard Hughes and Summa Corporation’s name as a cover for a purported project to vacuum up manganese nodules from the ocean floor. The true aim of the project was, however, to raise a sunken nuclear Russian submarine in very deep water off the Hawaiian coast. The Glomar Explorer was a huge ship outfitted with a submersible platform that could grab the heavy submarine from the ocean floor. Years later Jack gave a half-hour interview of his role in the project for the History Channel.

In 1976, Jack received an invitation to serve the United States Government for foreign- based personnel and took a two-year tour of duty as a regional medical officer based in Tehran, Iran. He inspected medical facilities and administered medical care in the field to Americans and their dependents in Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. He and Laura renewed consecutive two year commitments and together they served in similar posts in Panama (serving all of Central and South America), Alice Springs, Australia and finally in Kinshasa, Zaire, before returning to the home they built together in the foothills of Goleta in 1987. Jack semi-retired then and once again became immersed in community service and part-time substitution for practicing physicians in northern Santa Barbara County.

Jack began writing of his overseas duties in 1989 upon his return to Goleta from administering medicine in the outback of Australia with the Royal Flying Doctors medical team. He published his first book “Black Man, Red Sand” in 1991 and detailed his experiences serving the still primitive aboriginal culture. In 1994, Jack authored his second book, “D.O.M.P.” (Deep Ocean Mining Project) and submitted it to the U.S. Government to obtain clearance to publish his book regarding his experience on the Glomar Explorer project. The project, however, was still classified top secret. In June, 2008
Jack resubmitted his manuscript and just recently received authorization for his second book to be published.

Jack was bestowed the honor of the Goleta Valley Man of the Year in 1992. He proudly served as a docent at the Stow House in Goleta, as President of the Goleta Valley Historical Society and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, and as a delegate for Santa Barbara County to the California Medical Association. He donated his time to many organizations over the years including the Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Santa Barbara County Vector Control and was a very capable second baseman for the famous Goleta Lions All-Thumbs softball team for many years.

Jack is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Laura Mae, and their sons, Randy J. Rutten (wife, Kathleen, daughter, Kiana, and son, Aaron, and great-grandson, Landon) and Raul Rutten (wife, Maya, son, Helek and daughter, Ila), and sister, Nora Johnson, as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and their families who also survive him. He will be dearly missed but never forgotten!

A Memorial Celebration of Jack’s life will be held at Rancho La Patera/ Stow House on Saturday, March 14, 2009 beginning at 10:45 a.m. at: 304 North Los Carneros Road in Goleta, California. In lieu of flowers, donations will be welcomed to one of Jack’s favorite charities: Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, The Santa Barbara Historical Society, The Stow House or Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.


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