The Cobb’s Hill tragedy of an “invisible man” ten years later

The Cobb’s Hill tragedy of an “invisible man” ten years later

Shauna and Brendan

• August 25, 2015

Democrat and Chronicle, 14 Jun 2005, Tue, Metro, Page 16

Democrat and Chronicle, 14 Jun 2005, Tue, Metro, Page 16

For so many Cobb’s Hill is an oasis. The humming of the drums on the Reservoir steps at sunset. Cityscape views where on a clear night you can see Lake Ontario. Lovers holding hands on the slope on blankets under the shade of trees. The walkers rhythmic circling. The bicyclists looping. The pulse of the basketball games. The electricity of urban softball under the lights.

For full Cobb’s Hill series, see Adding Yeshiva football to the Cobb’s Hill series

But every oasis is somewhere tinged with human tragedy. The other day I realized it had been ten years this June since Bradley Rudgers drowned in Lake Riley at Culver and Norris.

According to reports by the D & C and WXXI News on June 13th, 2005, Rudgers, 42, and a woman (described by WXXI as his girlfriend) tried to swim across the pond between midnight and 1:00 a.m. Police said Rutgers began struggling halfway across and could not keep his head above water. The unidentified woman swam back, trying to rescue him. But Rudgers went under, and the woman lost sight of him. She flagged down an RG&E crew who called 911. At 3:02 a.m. Rochester Police SCUBA divers found Rudger’s lifeless body. His last known address was an apartment on Meigs Street.

Those were the only reported stories. Apparently, nothing more was known about Rudgers. I do remember in the days following no flowers or wreaths or balloons were left at the site by friends or anyone else. Then city commissioner of parks, Loretta C. Scott, said, despite the tragedy, there were no plan to put a fence around Lake Riley, adding that it would be a shame to interrupt the asesthetic value of the park.cobbs 1

Ten years later I wondered if anyone remembered the incident or anything about Rudgers. On the internet, I had found no information on Rudgers, except that in 1989 he had been found guilty of burglary. Hardly enough on which to judge a man’s life.

Asking people at the picnic benches and in parked cars, I discovered that most — even those who had frequented the park for years — had never even heard of the drowning.  Two who dimly recalled thought Rudgers had entered the pond to rescue his dog, something unmentioned in the police report. No one knew anything about Rudgers himself.

When I told the story to a man who has been hitting short golf shots near the pond for years, he was moved. It was odd. Haunting. A man about whom nothing really was known before or after. A lost man. The golfer, an African-American man who had read Ralph Ellison’s novel, gave me the title, “an invisible man.”

Every oasis somewhere tinged with human tragedy.

Throughout these posts, I have tried to share the joys I have discovered on this what I call my summer of love. But I find sorrow too.

Earlier in the summer, in Is there a poem in this tragedy? , I wrote about a young couple who died on train tracks in Pittsford in 1997.  The entire situation of Jason, 16, and Melissa, 14, seems so different from that of Bradley Rudgers, 42, whose last known address was an apartment on Meigs Street.

When Melissa and Jason died, there was communal outpouring of support. A plaque and their names inscribed on a rock wall in an oasis under the bridge on a beautiful stretch of the canal path.  But all three made a tragic mistake that ended their lives. We know next to nothing about Bradley but surely the loss was felt somewhere. Maybe the little lore passed along is true. He went into Lake Riley to save his beloved dog trapped in the weeds.


Adding Yeshiva football to the Cobb’s Hill series

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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