Eagle eye: Moral crusader Ruzicka wields 'phone tree'

Published: Sunday, Nov. 7 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

Ruzicka has been approached repeatedly to run for office, but she has never given it serious consideration. "I have no desire to be an elected official," she says. "I can do more for what I want to accomplish by working with elected officials. I also want the freedom to pick what I do and be with legislators if I want to be there. I can send others. We have callings in life. We all have a role we need to play."

It's a role, she says, she doesn't want.

Mother/teacher

She was born into a politically active family. Raised in Nampa, Idaho, one of four children, her father was a labor union president who was active in the Democratic Party.

"Mom was more adamant about it than he was," says Ruzicka. The entire family participated in politics at the grass-roots level, registering voters, urging people to vote, preparing mailers, making phone calls, meeting politicos.

"My parents taught me the importance of being involved," she says. "It was my involvement in the (LDS) church that taught me to be organized. The Eagle Forum is organized in chapters responsible for their areas, and each one puts people over projects. Like the church."

She met Don, an insurance broker from New York, while he was on a business trip in Boise. He eventually moved to Idaho, and they married and started their large family — 12 kids in 24 years. Later, they moved to Arizona, and in 1989 they settled in Utah.

By then, Ruzicka already had a full-time teaching job — at home. She took only a handful of college classes herself, but she was an avid reader who read her children's textbooks to keep ahead of them and worked closely with them on their homework. Her first six children attended public schools. The rest attended home school, with their mom as their teacher.

"When my first daughter was nearing graduation, I realized I had just gotten started," she says. "I thought, 'I'm not finished with you yet. You've got much more you need to learn that I need to teach you.' I started to think there had to be a better way to spend more time with my children and have more time to teach them. By the time they go to school and get their homework done, it's bedtime. Something was missing. It didn't seem right."

Further dissatisfied with what she calls the "shallowness" and liberal bent of the curriculum, she learned about home schooling on a TV show one night, "and I knew that was for me." After much legal wrangling and hiring an attorney — it still rankles her that the government had to approve of how she educated her children — she pulled her children out of public schools.

They attended home school in the morning and, when they were older, participated in activities and special classes in the public high school in the afternoon. One was president of the high school debate club, another the star of the school musical, another was a cheerleader and member of the drill team. The Ruzicka children have gone on to college and have become teachers, investors, businessmen, forest rangers.

Her home school was structured. They got out of bed at a certain time, they started and finished class at a certain time. Afternoons were devoted to science experiments or field trips. Somehow she managed to take care of the house, feed the children and do the schoolwork — grading papers, preparing lessons, teaching class.

"I stayed with them," she says. "I didn't go off and vacuum or do the dishes. I loved it. There's nothing I've enjoyed as much. We got to do a lot of things we couldn't have done if they had been in school all day."

A Capitol education

Over time, she was drawn increasingly back into the political world. While in Arizona, Don belonged to an organization that tried unsuccessfully to stop the 1988 impeachment of Gov. Evan Mecham.

As a mother of a dozen children, she had played a minor role in politics for years, writing letters and making calls for campaigns. She worked on the Equal Rights Amendment issue while in Idaho, and she worked with the Eagle Forum in support of Mecham. After moving to Utah, with her children older, she spent more time in politics.

"There were two things that made me get really involved — home school and the pro-life issue," she says. "That later evolved into the homosexual agenda. I felt I needed to have a say in it."

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