Gone Fishin' - Oct. 21, 1997

October 21, 1997                                      By Charlie Taylor

What is a Rufus?

So said the title of a poem written by a niece of Rufus Via, long time Sterling resident. The poem was read at a party hosted by Rufus and his daughter, Ellen, at the Ashburn Fire Hall Saturday night, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Saying that it was the major social event of the year in the Sterling community would be an understatement. The 160 guests were treated to a catered buffet by Cheng's Restaurant, music by a six piece band and a general good time for all.

As usual, Rufus was his normal jovial self, looking and acting more like a 50 year old than an octogenarian. While others much younger were sitting at tables, talking among themselves, Rufus was dancing every dance, with relatives and guests alike, and more than likely, wearing them out. Rufus started planning this party more than five years ago when he mentioned to a number of his friends that if he lived to be 80, he was going to throw the biggest party around. Despite a bit of trouble with his heart over the past two years, he accomplished both goals. On Sunday, he began planning his 90th birthday party, destined to be bigger and better.

As the poem pointed out, Rufus was one of nine boys and three girls, born to "Shake" and Cora Via in the mountains of rural Virginia. He caught his first fish in Morman's River in 1927, before most of his guests were born, and he has not stopped since. Rufus, best known in the area as the "father of fishing" to most residents of the local area, first crossed this writer's path some 33 years ago when he was a successful painting contractor in Sterling. After giving up his painting business, he was once again in the public eye for Sterling residents as the manager of the 7-11 on Church Street. It was during this period that Rufus became a major influence on my life.

He invited me to go fishing with him, and a lifelong avocation was born. To his constant amusement, my wife keeps accusing him of trying to break up our marriage by teaching me to fish. And I am not the only one, by far. Rufus has imparted his knowledge and friendship to many other people over the years, who professed a desire to learn to fish or just to "go fishin'". Nothing gives him more pleasure than to sit and talk about fishing, except of course, actually going fishing.

His late wife, Kitty, the smiling clerk at the Dranesville 7-11 for 18 years, was killed in an tragic accident in 1996, as she escorted kids across a Sterling street, just doing her job as a school crossing guard.

In addition to his fishing, Rufus is a country music fan, picking his guitar along with the recordings of his favorite singers. Sunday mornings are a prime get together time for family and friends, featuring Rufus and son-in-law, Roger McLean teaming up for country duets.

Another love is gardening, with some saying that Rufus grows the best tomatoes in the area. He is a regular visitor at the Giant Food salad bar, perhaps lending credence to "eating healthy". His favorite meal is fresh crappie and home grown tomatoes, generally offered to any guest in his home.

I have never heard an ill word spoken of the man and everyone he meets is immediately his friend. As one party guest commented, "It's a real accomplishment just to have this many people still talking to you at your age".

I, for one, cannot wait for Rufus's 90th birthday party (and all the fun in between).

Good Fishin'......