Clifford Ruzicka

Clifford Ruzicka and wife, Nancy. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Clifford Donald Ruzicka was born on Jan. 20, 1936, in the small farming community of Pischelville, Nebraska to Henry and Marion (Hrbek) Ruzicka.

He passed away in the early morning hours of Dec. 17, 2020, after a life full of hard work, outdoor adventures, and time with his family, friends and engineering team members.

Cliff was the youngest of four children. He attended school in a one-room country schoolhouse near their farm, often the teacher’s only student.

His parents sent him to town to board so that he could attend Verdigre High School, where he was a key athlete on championship basketball and six-man football teams. One woman who knew Cliff as a young man wistfully recalled, “One night I watched him score five touchdowns.”

After graduation, Cliff entered the Army. After completing boot camp, he was sent to Ft. Gordon in Georgia to train for the United States Army Signal Corps.

Due to his ability to speak and understand the Czech language, he was hand-picked for the 7144th Signal Technical Intel Team stationed in Salzburg, Austria performing intelligence duties during the Cold War in 1954-1955.

He wore civilian clothes and blended with civilians in bars, restaurants and community events to determine Soviet troop movement while traveling around Europe in a “Volkswagen Bug.”

Upon his honorable discharge, Cliff immediately applied to college and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1961 with a degree in civil engineering. He married Marie Hospodka, and by the time he graduated from college, they had three small children at home, Joy, Jon and Jim.

Cliff worked as a civil engineer for the city of Lincoln, before being recruited by the California Department of Water Resources to design infrastructure for the Oroville Dam and bridges for the California Aqueduct Project. The family relocated to Sacramento when their fourth child, Jill, was born.

Always the entrepreneur, Cliff wanted to open his own civil engineering business. He moved his family to Lake County, where the rolling hills and distinct four seasons reminded him of his home in Nebraska.

He initially worked with Raymond Murphy Associates, a San Francisco engineering firm, designing Clear Lake Riviera, and later with Lange Brothers Construction. After starting his own company, Ruzicka Engineering, he continued to share office space with Lange Brothers.

After a divorce in the early 1970s, Clifford met Nancy Randall through mutual friends, the Hinmans, Bruns and Bullards. They were married in 1974.

On New Year’s Eve in 1976 Cliff and Nancy became parents of twins, Mark and Marla.

Cliff and Nancy were passionate about economic development and worked tirelessly to promote Lake County, encouraging investment for quality development. They worked with residential developers to create quality housing ― Riviera Heights, Riviera West, Del Lago and Westlake Marina Resort Homes ― as well as improvements at Konocti Harbor Inn, The Geysers, Homestake Mine, Work Right Shower Doors, Vittel of France, Blue Shield Insurance, shopping centers, mobile home parks, wineries and vineyard development.

He designed campgrounds, marinas, launch ramps and infrastructure for our cities, Lake and Mendocino Counties, state and federal projects, and housing and casinos for tribal governments. Recently he has been referred to as “The Cannabis Development Guru of Lake County,” encouraging legal, quality development for local job creation.

Cliff gave back constantly to his community. He sponsored Little League teams, could be counted on to sponsor and participate in community events, donate free engineering/surveying services for local improvement projects, always churches, and even mentored people through their sobriety.

Cliff is preceded in death by his two daughters, Marla and Joy Ruzicka; his parents and siblings Glen, Marcella, and Violet.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Randall Ruzicka; children, Mark, Jon, Jim and Jill Ruzicka; and grandchildren, Allegria, Avalon, Nancy and Brayden Ruzicka, and Oliver and Philip Leighton.

His Nebraska nieces and nephews, Cindy Binger (Jerold), Bonnie Riley (Calvin), Cathy White (Duane), Jackie Lechtenberg (James), Jeri Ruzicka, Steven Ruzicka (Bonnie), and Dale Kovanda (Lisa), all meant the world to him. Also his favorite hunting and fishing companions Mike Raynor of Dakota City, Nebraska, Dennis Brand of Ketchikan, Alaska, Wilford Low of San Francisco, and his dog, Piper.

Celebrations of his life will be held, future dates to be announced, in Lakeport, California, Verdigre, Nebraska, and Ketchikan, Alaska at Cliff’s favorite fishing spot, “The Roaring Hole.”

Memorial donations to the Marla Ruzicka Memorial Futsal Soccer Field planned for Lakeport’s Westside Park, the Verdigre Community Foundation or Hospice of Lake County would be appreciated by Cliff’s family.