Rusty Wilfong: The right man for Ruston

By T. Scott Boatright

Doing the right thing is easy when it’s the right thing for you.

That’s the simple philosophy Ruston’s Rusty Woolfong lives by.

And the actions he’s shown have been noticed by Lincoln Parish residents for decades now, as shown by Wilfong being honored as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club in Ruston in January of 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The honor came because of Wilfong’s skills proven by his decades of service as one of Louisiana Tech football’s most avid fans and tailgaters. 

Wilfong, who is Service Manager at Karl Malone Toyota in Ruston, is best known for providing food for others as his “service of choice,” Wilfong said.

“Rotary provides money for all kinds of things. We had our Student of the Month (luncheon) today at the Historic Fire Station. That was really neat and it’s those kinds of things the money goes to. It’s working and having fun to help other people.

“I don’t have a lot of money. I’m not a celebrity or anybody like that who can give money.  I don’t want this to sound the wrong way, but it’s almost like tithing to the church. You do what you can, and that’s what I can do. It just feels right. I’ve always done it. I really don’t think about it. I’ve always enjoyed doing it. Those are lessons I learned from Bill Porter, who I worked for a long time ago. It’s just a natural thing now. I enjoy it.”

Wilfong proved that enjoyment three weeks ago when he cooked up food for four fundraisers in one week.

“We cooked at a Tech ballgame, and then we went and cooked for all the athletes out at Tech,” Wilfong said. “That was a lot of fun. That was 700-800 people. Then I cooked steaks at the dealership (Malone Toyota) — 65 bone-in ribeyes. They were good. Then the next Saturday I went to Arkansas to cook for a fundraiser. So within a week I cooked four different times.”

Wilfong first became an avid Tech fan in the 1970s.

“I’ve been married 44 years next month,” Wilfong said. “I moved here right after I got married because my wife’s parents had moved here. We had no other family at all. We came down to visit them in ’78 and went to a Tech football game. My wife Patti and I both grew up in military families and moved around all the time.

“We never had a real hometown — a place to be from. And we came here and to be honest, just fell in love with the place. I was working in the oilfield then and we moved here and never left. By the early ’80s I was working for Porter Chevrolet. That was when we first met Karl Malone, and the relationship just stuck.”

Wilfong admits he loves smoking meat on his grills, but he has other plans for this weekend’s Tech Homecoming game against Texas-San Antonio.

“I’m going to be frying up a whole bunch of chicken wings,” Wilfong said. 

Whatever cooking/grilling equipment Wilfong doesn’t own is provided by the Malone Toyota dealership.

Wilfong cooked to provide food for truckers stranded during the February of 2021 ice storm as well as raising funds for DART, Shop-With-A-Cop, MedCamps and many others.

“I just went up to Sheridan, Arkansas, to cook for a fundraiser up there my brother, who lives up there, has been asking me to do for years,” Wilfong said. “I never would commit to it. He’s with the volunteer fire department up there and I finally told him I would do it. Two weeks ago I got up at 2:30 in the morning, left the house about 4:15 and by 7 o’clock we were cooking jambalaya.”

Wilgfong’s servant heart is something not considered or planned. It simply is what it is and his life the way he lives it.

“I have done nothing for any reason except for it was what I wanted to do — felt I needed to do,” Wilfong said. “The Paul Harris Award blew my mind. I didn’t expect it.  I appreciate it incredibly. But that’s not why I did it. I was just doing what I wanted to do — what I think is the right thing to do.”

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