Former school administrator Tom Rulison of Dade City died Tuesday at age 66.
Rulison died as a result of melanoma he had been fighting since being diagnosed in September 2011. In January, the cancer began to spread and he could not overcome it, though "he fought like crazy," according to his wife, Kim Rulison.
His funeral will be held at the Pasco Middle School auditorium at 3 p.m. Monday. Hodges Family Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
The oldest of four children, Rulison was born July 22, 1946, in Saginaw, Mich., to Thomas Edward and Caroline Eloise White Rulison.
Rulison attended Central Michigan University where he earned a bachelor's degree in social studies and a master's degree in secondary school administration. He took his first job at a junior high school in Michigan where he taught for six years.
In 1974, Rulison moved to Pasco County to become dean at then-Gulf Junior High in New Port Richey. Following that, he became an assistant principal at Pasco Middle School, Bayonet Point Junior High and Pine View Middle School in Land O' Lakes.
In 1985, he was promoted to principal at Bayonet Point Middle School. He remained there for 17 years prior to opening up Centennial Middle School as its first principal in 2001. He remained there until he retired in 2009.
Under Rulison's leadership, Centennial Middle was an A school four years in a row on the Florida Department of Education's report card for schools. During his tenure, the school also targeted the problem of bullying, developing a close relationship with Saint Leo University and adopting an anti-bullying policy that became a model for the school district.
The Rulisons would have been married six years on Aug. 22.
"He was a family man. Family was extremely important to him. He was very proud of his kids," Kim Rulison said. "He was a very caring, sensitive person. He was a peacemaker kind of person. He tried to make sure that everybody got along. He always thought of others first."
Kim Rulison described his willingness to be a father to her children when they married. He was about 60 years old at the time. She added that he took on a fatherly role to his 14-year-old stepdaughter.
"He didn't treat her any different than his own. That says a lot about someone," she said.
Kim Rulison said her husband loved to travel and, especially to travel to other states to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play.
Even after retiring, Rulison "was excited about seeing the [Pasco] school system continue to move forward," she said.
His sister, Barb Rulison, recalled their relationship growing up. "For me, he was my big brother in every sense of what that word means. He was my role model; we were great friends - not when we were little kids," Barb Rulison said, laughing, "but as we grew older we grew much closer."
"He loved life and you can't ask for much more than that. [His was] a life well-lived," she said.
He is survived by his wife, his five children, Tommy, Jamie, Kerri, Michael and Nicole, his sister, and brothers, Steve and Mark Rulison. Donations may be made to the ABC programs at Bayonet Point Middle School, Centennial Middle School or Hernando Pasco Hospice.