A former principal dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is remembered who was killed in Ottawa earlier this month for his community service and contribution to Canadian dance.
Richard Rutherford, 87, was found dead on April 15 in a house in Smyth Road.
Police have charged a 69-year-old Ottawa man with second-degree murder in Rutherford’s death, but have publicly shared a few other details about how he died.
“It was a big shock to me. I’m still working on it,” said Sarah Evans, one of Rutherford’s friends. “I think for people who knew him well, it was very difficult to hear what happened.”
Evans worked with Rutherford for five years on the board overseeing the Canadian Human Rights Tribute – also known as the Human Rights Monument – which she says has been a great part of his later life.
He worked to get plaques with native languages on the Elgin Street monument and organized a dance troupe to perform there every year.
“[He] was one of the best people I’ve known in my life,” Evans said.
Evans recalled a conversation the two had about his life growing up in the southern United States, before moving to New York, then Winnipeg and finally ending up in Ottawa.
Rutherford will end up spending a significant portion of her life in the nation’s capital, Evans said.
“One thing that struck me was how attached he was to Canada and the places he lived – and how much he loved Ottawa and the people who lived there,” Evans said. “So he was very connected to the community.”
Since his death, Evans said she had emailed other friends of hers to hear stories about how they remembered him.
“He always wanted others to succeed. He’s very low-key. He’s been supportive of a number of different cultural and community things.”
Raised the standards at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
André Lewis, Artistic Director and CEO of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, first met Rutherford in 1975 when Lewis arrived at ballet school.
At the time, Lewis only spoke French. He said Rutherford, who was the associate director, was very patient with him. They ended up working together for two years.
“He was really very courteous, if you will, in that sense, and very positive,” Lewis told CBC. All in one day.
“Richard raised the standards of the organization through the quality – certainly of his dancing – and later the quality of his training.”
All in one day7:06Tribute to Richard Rutherford, former dancer of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet
In Rutherford’s time as a dancer for the company, Lewis had only seen videos – but said he had a convincing figure.
“He definitely had a vitality. He definitely had a stage presence. He was a very handsome man,” Lewis said. “You could tell right away how much he loved connecting with an audience.”
Rutherford eventually moved to Ottawa, taking up a position as an arts officer managing dance grants for the Canada Council for the Arts.
The two remained in contact, however, with Rutherford returning for alumni events at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Every time Lewis came to dance in Ottawa, Rutherford met the dancers backstage.
They last saw each other before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis said.