July 4th birthday holds special meaning for Sheffield Village man

Family, fishing and fireworks – Rudy Ackerman, born on the 4th of July, is proud to share his birthday with America. He is pictured here at French Creek, one of the places his dad, Rudy, taught him how to fish. (Press photo, Michele Murphy)

By MICHELE MURPHY

Sheffield Village – As a child, Rudy Ackerman remembers his entire family getting together each July 4 to celebrate his birthday – or so he thought. Today, some 20 years later, he says he loves seeing driveways filled with cars, kids running around or playing in the pool while celebrating America’s – and his – birthday.

He looks a bit sheepish admitting that as a preschooler, he really did believe everything revolved around him on his birthday. He explains that, once he entered school, he began to learn about the country’s history and how the signing of the Declaration of Independence warranted a party as big and happy as those he recalled from his childhood.

Still, he holds dear those early July Fourth memories, even after he realized it was not all about him. As he talks, one realizes his childhood memories play a significant part in his life today.

Ackerman loves being outdoors. He selected James Day Park in Sheffield Village as a meeting place for an interview because he loves “the creek,” as he calls French Creek, which runs along the edge of the park. He pointed out a spot where his dad took him fishing as a kid just under the East River Road bridge. That brings up a birthday memory. He was at his grandma’s house. Grandma is long-time Sheffield Village Councilwoman Jean Ackerman. He went to the pond behind her house to fish and managed to catch “the biggest catfish of my life.” He recalls how hard he had to work to hold the fish on a line on his outstretched arm while trying to pedal his bike home to excitedly show his parents his catch.

He also recalled another birthday when he watched mesmerized as his dad and a bricklayer climbed ladders and scaffolding to build a two-story chimney onto an addition to the family’s house. “What’s the big deal about that?” he asks, then answers that, as a 7-year-old, he liked things associated with construction. “I thought it was cool,” he claims. He explains he frequently played with “diggers” as a kid. “Diggers” are diecast iron trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, and such. He played with them in a backyard sandbox or in nearby dirt piles. Fast forward to today and that just might explain why he chose to work for Independence Excavating, one of Northeast Ohio’s largest construction companies, specializing in industrial site development, demolition and environmental remediation.

Ackerman also recalls being piled into the car with his siblings to see fireworks at Avon Lake’s Weiss Field. So it may not be a surprise to learn that when his company was hired to demolish the old coal-burning electric plant at E. 72nd Street and the East Shoreway in downtown Cleveland a few months ago, Ackerman volunteered to work with the contractor responsible for laying the charges for the explosives that brought the old plant down.

His plans for this July Fourth aren’t set yet, as he explains that he, his wife, Nicole, and his 5-year-old stepdaughter, Teagan, are busy packing boxes for a move to a new house. The move is necessitated by the fact that their family is growing. They have a baby due in early November.

Ackerman explains that, like many families, his family splits holidays between his family in Sheffield Village and Nicole’s family who live in a rural area not far from Defiance. He admits that the city of Defiance puts on a good fireworks show on July 4. Plus, he said many people who live up and down the Auglaize River do their own fireworks extravaganzas.

As for being born on such a special day, Ackerman says, “I’ve always had a lot of pride in our country.” The former offensive lineman for both Brookside High School and Baldwin Wallace University asserts, “Being born on the Fourth of July bolsters my pride.”

Becoming reflective, he adds, “Signing the Declaration (of Independence) was huge. I can enjoy things that not everybody else in other countries can enjoy.”

“America is not without its faults,” Ackerman states, “but, in my mind, there’s no better place.”

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