Remembering Rudy

A bright light went out in Chico last week when Rudy Giscombe died.

Photo By Michael Agliolo

A bright light went out in Chico last week when Rudy Giscombe died. As all who knew him would attest, he was an extraordinary man. He wasn’t rich or powerful or famous, but he was a huge presence wherever he went, simply because he had so many ways of celebrating his love of life.

As his good friend and fellow photographer Mike Agliolo put it in a short piece he wrote following Rudy’s death, “If you knew Rudy, I’ll bet you honestly loved the guy, and you knew he loved you too.”

Rudy was irresistible. He hugged everyone, and when he broke out one of his big, joyful laughs, everything brightened. The guy overflowed with warmth.

And with talent. He was a superb commercial photographer, but he could also do photojournalism (he worked as a fill-in photographer for the CN&R on several occasions) as well as art photography. He was as good with landscapes as he was, for example, documenting life in Cuba during his several trips to that country.

And then there was his music. Rudy was an adventurous jazz saxophonist who could riff endlessly on a melody line and then bring it home seamlessly to finish the song. Watching him play was like seeing the Buddha singing to the cosmos.

There came a time, shortly after Rudy arrived in town, when he decided he wanted to make his living doing photography and needed to expand into commercial arenas. So he went to sit at the feet of the master. Mike Agliolo tells what happened:

“When Rudy asked to work for me, he said something that no other person had said: ‘Mr. Agliolo, I’m going to be a photographer. I would like to work for you.’ Not ‘I would like to be a photographer or hope to be a photographer.’ No, he was going to be a photographer, period. It was just a question of whether I wanted to be there when he did.”

Rudy battled prostate cancer for 14 years, and kept smiling and laughing that whole time. During his final days he was surrounded by members of his family. The day before he died his band came to his home and played for him. He asked for his saxophone, wanting to join in, but he was too weak to play.

There will be an informal gathering for Rudy Saturday, June 25, during breakfast and lunch hours at Sin of Cortez. The restaurant is donating all proceeds to his wife, Cheryl, to help with medical expenses.

Adiós, hermano. Que te vaya bien.