A Tribute to Reuben Summerlin

Just a few months ago, Brian and I were sitting in a boathouse restaurant in the harbor of Suva, Fiji having an amazing dinner and a hilarious conversion with our friends Reuben and Diana Summerlin. Being his witty, charismatic, and wholeheartedly genuine self, Reuben was telling stories that had me laughing so hard I was in tears and, at one point, literally falling out of my chair. It was one of those times where you’re fully aware of the fact you’re making a lifelong memory in the very moment it’s happening. I thought to myself, “This is what friendship is about. This. Right here, right now. Laughing hysterically while Reuben Summerlin jokes about his interest in non-homosapien homonids.” On this night, like all the other times we spent with him during our month in his family’s home, being around Reuben meant we were thoroughly enjoying life.

Two days ago during his journey to bike around Fiji’s big island of Viti Levu, our dear friend Reuben was struck by a van and killed. A driver’s impatience in passing a slow-moving truck took the life of this amazing man. That split-second decision stole a wonderful husband from his wife, a dedicated father from his children, a committed professional from the fight to end poverty and an amazing friend from everyone lucky enough to be a part of his life.

Our family, along with thousands of others around the globe, mourn the loss of this brilliant, thoughtful and gregarious man. To know Reuben was truly to love him. He was a storyteller and also a careful listener. He could command a room, yet make everyone in it feel important and appreciated. He was committed and passionate, while also being fun and carefree. Reuben was one of a kind and will be remembered always by everyone who had the privilege to know him.

Reuben spent his career advocating for others. By working to give the poor access to financial tools, he helped them reach more stable and productive lives. His intelligence and charisma made him an incredible force in ending the cycle of poverty. One of the hardest parts of losing him is the knowledge that he had wanted to do so many more good things for this world.

As we mourn him, we can all look for ways to continue Reuben’s legacy of service and friendship. It’s the best way we can honor his life and give some amount of meaning to his untimely and senseless death. In his memory, we will find our own small ways to replace the good work he can no longer do. We will strive to live by his example and give those less fortunate than ourselves a hand up to a better life. In our relationships with friends and loved ones we can bring the same compassion, attentiveness, and laughter that Reuben gave us. Losing Reuben has made us realize how important our present moment is and why we need to do everything we can to make the most of it for our loved ones and our fellow man.

You will never be forgotten, Reuben Summerlin. Your giving spirit, selfless commitment, Sad Country Fridays and even your interest in non-homosapien homonids will live on through the lives of those you touched. Rest in peace, dear friend. Rest in peace with the knowledge that this world is a much better place having had you in it. We just wish you’d been here much longer.
Getting ready to dive at Voli Voli resort
Shark diving off Pacific Harbour, Fiji
Drinks on a beautiful night with his beautiful wife
Reuben and Diana paddleboarding together
Sunset cruise
Fun times with our families

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

About the Author

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. So sorry to hear about your friend. You are lucky to have known him. If a memorial fund is set up in his honor, please let us know.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss of a good friend. You had me intrigued about Reuben, when you wrote from Fiji. Your tribute today is tremendous. I don’t understand events like this. The lesson not to take any day for granted seems weak when the cost is so high for Reuben’s family.

  3. To the Carischs – so terribly sorry to hear about Reuben’s death – you spoke of him when you were staying here and he sounds an amazing man!!! What a loss for you all and the world!! Much love to you.

  4. Thank you for writing this beautiful tribute. Everything you write about him is true. I was fortunate to know this man from time together in the peace corps. He is deeply missed.

  5. You captured him perfectly. I only knew Reuben for about four years, but those four years were HUGE. We were kids. I knew his older brother Dan much better, but we all just loved it when Reuben would join the fray. Rooooob!!!! would come the cheer when he entered the room. Even as the little brother, he managed to make us all feel more at ease and captivate us when he chose to interject at, always, the perfect moment. Thanks so much.

  6. Thank you so much for such a beautiful tribute to my dear cousin Reuben. I’ve been reading various memories of him and came across your blog. He truly was one of a kind and had such a zest and passion for life..it was almost tangible. Family gatherings were always filled with his unforgettable laugh and sense of humor. When I was younger, I couldn’t get enough stories of his time in the Peace Corps. He had such a passion for helping people and I immediately felt that there was something special about him. You’re right..we should all continue his legacy and do what we can to help others along our way.

    1. Kipley, thank you so much for your beautiful words about Reuben. Seeing the world respond to his tragic death underscores what an incredibly positive force he was in his life.

  7. This is just terrible news. Reuben was such a good person. His family will be utterly devastated. He will be missed by many around the PICs. I’ll miss him.

    Stuart Mathison, Head of Operations, National Bank of Vanuatu

  8. Excellent words about a great friend. Reuben quickly became my first friend when I enrolled at Memphis State, & we shared countless memories together over the years. He lived as we all should: smart, selfless, and fun-loving. I’m heartbroken, but a better person today for having been his friend. It’s amazing to see how many lives he’s touched all over the world. Thank you for writing & sharing this, Tracey.

  9. Every word of your tribute is so true, beautiful and powerful. Thank you. Reuben Summerlin was a good man. In every way.

  10. It is an amazing thing. This life and how quickly it brings both joy and sadness. I’m sorry to hear of Reuben’s passing. Tragic.

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