Jerry Rullo, 94, of Philadelphia, the last living member of the 1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors championship basketball team who after retiring was a beloved coach for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, died Friday, Oct. 21, of heart failure at Penn Medicine Rittenhouse.
Mr. Rullo played on the first team to win a championship at a time when the newly formed Basketball Association of America was about to become the NBA.
With the deaths of Ralph Kaplowitz and Angelo Musi in 2009, and now Mr. Rullo, all members of the legendary squad that beat the Chicago Stags to win the best-of-seven series, 4-1, are now gone.
Mr. Rullo played professionally for five seasons, joining the Baltimore Bullets, Philadelphia SPHAS (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association), the Trenton Tigers, and, finally, in 1950-51, the Sunbury Mercury. His career average was 2.9 points per game.
Born in South Philadelphia, he graduated from John Bartram High in 1941, but it was at Temple University that the physical-education major began to shine.
A three-sport athlete for the Owls from 1941 through 1946, Mr. Rullo captained the basketball and soccer teams, and played on the baseball team, Temple wrote online.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound guard was a standout on head coach Josh Cody's 1942-43 and 1943-44 squads before being drafted into the Army Reserves, the school wrote. He returned for his senior season in 1945-46, before turning pro.
Almost three decades later, Mr. Rullo was honored for his achievements by induction into the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame.
From 1950 until retiring in 1983, he was a city recreation supervisor and coach. He served at the Murphy Recreation Center, Fourth and Shunk Streets; the Lanier Playground, 30th and Tasker; and the Markward Playground at Taney and Pine.
Jim Kilrain, now 73, recalled playing basketball as a young man for Mr. Rullo at Lanier in Grays Ferry.
"As good a basketball coach and teacher as he was, Jerry's lessons carried far beyond basketball for me. You knew when you stepped on the court with Jerry, whatever your abilities, you would have to play as hard as you could the entire game, and be tough but also fair," Kilrain said. "I am sure most people felt the same and carried those qualities long beyond their time on the court."
Mr. Rullo's enthusiasm for sports infused his volunteer work, which he took seriously.
"He coached boys' and girls' basketball, baseball, and softball. He formed adult leagues in baseball, basketball, and touch football where children enjoyed watching the games," said his son Jim Rullo.
Mr. Rullo persuaded local stores or bars to underwrite the cost of team shirts and refereeing. "He had a great rapport with everyone in the neighborhood," his son said. "He was a true gentleman."
Mr. Rullo taught physical education at Frankford Friends School for 20 years as a part-timer.
"He had such a huge impact on so many lives that our family is receiving condolences from all over the country," his son said.
Mr. Rullo was a longtime referee for the Big 5 and college games. He enjoyed following the Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers.
He took an interest in keeping his neighborhood clean as block captain and quietly helped neighbors with personal problems - such as how to keep their children out of trouble.
Besides his son Jim, Mr. Rullo is survived by his wife, Eileen Rafferty Rullo; another son, Jerry; and six grandchildren.
Services were Oct. 26.
Donations to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia may be made via www.chop.edu.