EVERY FAMILY HAS its difficult members - black sheep, if you will.

But it didn't matter to Uncle El. He loved them anyway.

"If you were the black sheep or if you were in the doghouse, Uncle El embraced you anyway," said the family of Elwood Rucker, a son of old Virginia who never got the South out of his bones.

"He was a loving, kind, generous spirit. He was not judgmental. He accepted you the way you were."

Elwood Rucker, a 12-year employee of the Philadelphia International Airport motels and a city Streets Department worker for 33 years, died Friday. He was 84 and lived in South Philadelphia.

Elwood was an Army veteran of the Korean War, during which he worked with heavy equipment in Korea.

At the airport, he transported airline passengers, and for the city, one of his jobs was putting up the streetlights on the then-newly completed Schuylkill Expressway, his family said.

As the captain of the 1900 block of Montrose Street in South Philadelphia for several decades, Elwood saw to it that the block was clean, and he coordinated efforts to keep the street functioning, even if it meant petitioning City Hall to get a pothole fixed.

"He made sure the block's resources were properly directed," his family said. "And he would reach out to residents who needed help."

Elwood never forgot his roots in Virginia, where he was born to Mozell Rucker in King William County. He remained a member of the Providence Baptist Church in Aylett, and would travel frequently to the region to attend revival meetings and homecoming services.

He came to Philadelphia at an early age and attended Bok Vocational High School. He joined the Army in 1951 and served until 1953.

Elwood was a devoted family man. He urged his own children and nieces and nephews to go to college, and when they did, they got an envelope from Uncle El.

He was especially fond of children, and it was a treat to see him talking with his littlest great-nephew, Jackson Goodwin, 3-year-old child of niece Erica Goodwin.

He would call him "little man" and tell him he was going to grow up to be a big strong man. Maybe Jackson didn't understand what this man was saying to him - or maybe he did.

Elwood is survived by his wife, the former Doris Clark; a son, Anthony Rucker; a daughter, Gina Ray; a sister, Jeanne Watson, and two grandsons.

Services: Viewing 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Slater Funeral Home, 1426 Fitzwater St. A homegoing service will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday at Providence Baptist Church, 4570 Dorrell Road., Aylett, Va. Friends may call at 2 p.m.

Donations may be made to the Providence Baptist Church Building and Missionary Fund, 4570 Dorrell Road, Aylett, VA 23009.