Kindness in Real Life: Groton ‘brothers' still friends 50 years later

A lot has changed since Alan Ruditzky of Griswold and Saul Thompson of Groton first met through the local Big Brothers program in 1968. Their conversations now are less about fishing trips on Long Pond and more about comparing medications. But they still go out for pizza just like they used to, and Ruditzky said it’s like they never left.

Ruditzky, 73, started working at Electric Boat as an engineer fresh out of the University of Connecticut. Retired now, he said he had some free time as a young bachelor, and he contacted the late Charlie Kiernan, executive director of Big Brothers of Southeastern Connecticut, to go through the training to become a mentor with the organization.

He was partnered with Thompson, now 62, who lived in Poquonnock Bridge with his five siblings and great-grandmother at the time. In a story published in The Day in 1972, Thompson’s great-grandmother Minnie Smith said she signed him up so he would have a good male role model in his life.

The duo, ages 22 and 11, started with errands around town and picnics at Bluff Point. Through Thompson’s teenage years, they hung out regularly, going to baseball games and movies and other activities, sometimes with Thompson’s siblings and sometimes with other Big Brothers pairs.

Ruditzky was honored in 1972 as Big Brother of the Year for the local chapter for his work, and Thompson said he gave his “big brother” a lot of credit for who he is today.

The two stayed in casual contact as Ruditzky started a family and Thompson went into the Army and then started working at EB as a welder when he returned. They reconnected more recently when Thompson’s wife died and one of his daughters messaged Ruditzky on social media.

They still reminisce about their adventures in the Big Brothers program, like when they ran out of gas during a motorcycle ride, but now Ruditzky helps Thompson with the probate court process rather than getting him odd jobs to purchase a bicycle.

Ruditzky said their relationship is more like friends than big/little brother now, but the approach is the same: with friendship and mutual support to show they don’t have to go through life’s challenges alone.

Amanda Hutchinson is the Times’ assistant editor. Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in which we encourage writers to tell about kind acts being done in the community. To submit your own story and photos, email Lee Howard at l.howard@theday.com.

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