Faith infused the life of Tulsa Fire Capt. Josh Rutledge – Tulsa World

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Capt. Josh Rutledge would have served 25 years with the Tulsa Fire Department in March.
Heidi and Josh Rutledge were married for 25 years. Josh Rutledge, a Tulsa Fire Department captain, died Nov. 11.
In this family photo, Heidi Rutledge grips Josh Rutledge tightly around the waist while Josh’s brother rides behind her. The couple have been sweethearts practically since birth.
Heidi and Josh Rutledge were married for 25 years.
Whether performing his “day job” as a Tulsa firefighter, serving as a lay pastor in a variety of situations or coaching his sons’ baseball teams, Josh Rutledge had a singular mission: to save lives.
Faith infused Rutledge’s life, said his wife, Heidi Rutledge, and he used all of his roles in life as opportunities to share that faith with others.
Many of those others are now struggling to make sense of Rutledge’s untimely death last Friday at the age of 47 while bow-hunting near his home west of Sand Springs. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Rutledge apparently fell somehow, leading to his death, Heidi Rutledge said. The couple’s oldest son, Rhett Rutledge, who was hunting nearby, found his father.
A funeral service is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at South Tulsa Baptist Church under the direction of Dillon Funeral Service of Sand Springs.
Heidi Rutledge said her husband “would want his death to be a reminder that this world is not forever, that we’re just passing through.”
“There’s a purpose in this,” she said. “Josh touched a lot a lot of lives.”
Not the least of those lives is Heidi Rutledge’s. The couple seemed destined — practically since birth — to be together. Before either was born, their parents attended church together and were good friends, she said.
When Heidi was born, Josh’s parents were at the hospital to offer support. Eight months later, when Josh was born, Heidi’s parents returned the favor.
As young children growing up in Sand Springs, the couple was always together, often at church or church functions.
“I just always loved him,” Heidi Rutledge said. “Every little picture that we have, I was always right beside him.”
A few years later, notes were passed: “Do you like Heidi? Check yes or no.” Josh checked yes. For a while, around the age of 12 or so, they were “going together.”
But then in the summer before Heidi would have started high school, her father’s job as a minister took the family to Oklahoma City. Josh and Heidi didn’t see each other for seven years. It was during Christmas break from college in 1995 when Heidi and Josh reconnected.
Their first real date was on Christmas Eve, and they married a year later, on Jan. 4, 1997.
Josh and Heidi moved back to Sand Springs and began their family, welcoming three sons in seven years and then a daughter a decade later.
Josh Rutledge became a third-generation Tulsa firefighter in March 1998, and when he wasn’t at the firehouse, he served as an umpire, worked in his dad’s pawnshop and did numerous other jobs to provide for his family.
A captain, he would have celebrated his 25th year with the Tulsa Fire Department in March, Heidi Rutledge said.
Josh Rutledge also spent most of his life “pastoring” in some fashion or another, whether as a lay leader at churches the family attended, at the house church he led, at the firehouse and even at the baseball field.
Always a baseball fan, he was nevertheless bothered that the kids’ games so often were on Sundays, his wife said, so he started holding “baseball devotionals,” with the lesson often focusing on how baseball was merely a platform for building character and faith.
With the Fire Department, Rutledge had been a member of the “Fire2Fire” Support Resources unit since March 2013 and temporarily transferred in January to the training center to be a training officer for the largest cadet class Tulsa has ever had.
“His mission in life was to love people, and he wanted them to know the Lord Jesus Christ,” Heidi Rutledge said. “He had a very strong faith, and he wanted to share the Lord’s love with other people. Everything that he did was about serving the Lord.”
Josh Rutledge attended Moody Christian Academy, Anderson Public School and then Sand Springs Public Schools, graduating from Charles Page High School in 1993. He wrestled and played football, but his favorite sport was baseball; he played first base. He had a love for hunting and fishing.
He attended Carl Albert State College on a baseball scholarship, then transferred to East Central University in Ada, where he continued to play college ball while getting a bachelor’s degree in business. He graduated in 1997.
Rutledge is survived by his wife, Heidi Rutledge; three sons, Rhett Rutledge, Riley Rutledge and Rhen Rutledge; one daughter, Reese Rutledge; an “adopted daughter,” Jaymie Mills; his parents, Terry and Laura Rutledge; a brother and sister-in-law, Jacob and Trinity Rutledge; a sister and brother-in-law, Lisa and Richard Sanchez; his grandmother Mary Nell Rutledge; one granddaughter; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his grandfathers Pete Rutledge and Larry Caves; his grandmother Christene Sandford; and two uncles, Mike Townsend and Wes Caves.
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Tulsa firefighters were grateful to help bring closure for his family after his decades of service to the city, a TFD spokesman said.

Tulsa Fire Capt. Josh Rutledge of Sand Springs died Nov. 11 week in a hunting accident. He was 47.
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Capt. Josh Rutledge would have served 25 years with the Tulsa Fire Department in March.
Heidi and Josh Rutledge were married for 25 years. Josh Rutledge, a Tulsa Fire Department captain, died Nov. 11.
In this family photo, Heidi Rutledge grips Josh Rutledge tightly around the waist while Josh’s brother rides behind her. The couple have been sweethearts practically since birth.
Heidi and Josh Rutledge were married for 25 years.
Tulsa Fire Capt. Josh Rutledge of Sand Springs died Nov. 11 week in a hunting accident. He was 47.
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