1,000-plus turn out for Rustay benefit

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – A huge crowd crammed into the Elk’s Lodge in Albion today to show support for David Rustay and his family. Mr. Rustay is fighting brain cancer. He is pictured pulling the winning ticket for one of the 123 gift baskets donated for today’s “Rally with the Rustays.”

Donna Vanderlaan, left, helped organize the event. She graduated with Rustay in 1985 from Albion. Many of Rustay’s classmates were the main organizers behind today’s event.

“We went to school with him and we love him very much,” said Marlene Seielstad, one of his classmates and event volunteers. “Once an Eagle always an Eagle.”

Three women who graduated with Rustay call out winning raffle tickets at the Elk’s Club. They include, from left, Dawn Thiel in orange shirt, Kellie Braley, and Pam Jenks.

Rustay has had brain surgery to remove nearly all of a tumor. He has endured radiation and just started a second round of chemotherapy. He has continued to work full-time as a highway mechanic and motor equipment operator for the Town of Gaines.

“Everybody likes Dave,” said Ron Mannella, the Gaines highway superintendent. “He has helped a lot of people through the years. He’s a super nice guy.”

Rustay has proven a dedicated and skilled employee in the highway department.

“It’s remarkable the things he can do,” Mannella said. “He can fix anything.”

David and Stephanie Rustay and their children, Katie and Alex, express their thanks for the community support.

Rustay hasn’t missed much work since he was diagnosed with brain cancer in late September.

“It hasn’t slowed him down a bit,” Mannella said.

Mannella is a member of the Orleans County Highway Superintendents Association, which donated $1,000 to the Rustays to help with medical bills and other out-of-pocket costs.

Organizers estimated more than 1,000 people attended the event today, which included 60 pots of chili and soup, many tables of gift baskets and other raffles.

Rustay said he was overwhelmed by the enormous crowd and all of the support.

“I was so surprised,” he said. “It’s a really satisfying thing for me and my family.”