John Ruminer Receives Los Alamos Legacy Society’s 2021 History Award

Los Alamos Historical Society board past president Roger Waterman, right, presents the 2021 History Award to John Ruminer Saturday. Photo Courtesy LAHS

John Ruminer, right, greets members of the Ashton family in front of the Los Alamos Historical Society’s Giving Tree. A Leaf commemorating the Jerry and Helene Suydam donation of the Oppenheimer House will be placed on the tree. Ashton family members are close relatives of the late Mrs. Suydam. Photo Courtesy LAHS

Guests at Saturday’s Legacy Society event relax in the shade in front of the Oppenheimer House. Photo Courtesy LAHS


Los Alamos Historical Society celebrated people who give their time, talent, and treasure at Saturday’s Los Alamos Legacy Society event. Local volunteer John Ruminer received the Society’s highest honor, the History Award, as a highlight of the afternoon. 

Also featured were the Ashton family, relatives of the late Los Alamos resident Helene Suydam, along with Kent and Linda Waterman of Colorado Springs, CO. Mrs. Suydam and her late husband, Jerry, bequeathed their long-time home, now known as The Oppenheimer House, to the Society, while the Watermans made a generous donation to The Oppenheimer House (Restoration) Fund, said Society Executive Director Elizabeth “Liz” Martineau. Ruminer, working at the event before being surprised with his award, announced that both families will receive Donor Recognition Leaves on LAHS’ Giving Tree, located adjacent to the Hans Bethe House. 

In announcing Ruminer’s selection, LAHS Board of Directors Immediate Past President Roger Waterman described his love for and continuous work on history preservation. Waterman included a fun, personal description of Ruminer’s deep Los Alamos roots. 

“The Ruminers, Dalys, and Watermans have been in Los Alamos a long time. But in spite of all his other achievements, John is recognized by the Senior boys of the (Los Alamos High School) Class of 1965 as the older man that Kit Daly, the most popular girl in our class, chose as her beau.”  

Ruminer, who served on LAHS’ Board for 15 years, compiled a long list of those roles and accomplishments, including Board vice president, History-is-Here team member and Recognition Leader, Historic Properties Team Leader, Restoration Project Leader and Planner, friend of the Suydam and Perkins families (major benefactors), Docent and Docent Trainer, historian, scholar, and author. He proposed and implemented the design and placement of The Giving Tree and played an integral role in accessorizing the interior of The Romero Cabin. Waterman said it was his “great privilege and honor to present the 2021 History Award” to Ruminer. 

Thanking the Ashton family, Martineau described members of the Legacy Society as ambassadors for LAHS, noting their importance to the future sustainability of the organization. LAHS maintains an endowment, started by an estate gift from former Los Alamos National Laboratory chemist Beth Plassmann, which provides stable funding for staffing, historic building maintenance, and other programs. Only interest income from the endowment is spent; the principle, adjusted each year for inflation, remains intact. Martineau said that in addition to such major donations as The Oppenheimer House, Legacy members also contribute to the endowment.

Discussing their contribution to the Society in a circa-2004 interview, Mrs. Suydam said, “I am pleased that our gift will allow the community and future generations to experience the important history of the place Robert Oppenheimer called home during the Manhattan Project. Preserving this history for the future is the proper thing to do.”

Legacy members who have notified LAHS of a planned gift receive lifetime recognition including an invitation to annual events such as Saturday’s fete, available only to members of the Los Alamos Legacy Society.
For information on LAHS, it’s Los Alamos Legacy Society, or to make a donation, contact Martineau at 505-662-6272 or .