From Desperation to Celebrating 25 Years at Her Dream Job

by Trish Utter

The person that greets you at any business is the face of the company. They can make or break a business. For the past 25 years, Sharon Ruthie Hale-Ferguson has been the pivotal part of the success at the law firm of Robert, A. Rush.

This modest woman grew up in N.E. Gainesville. Her father was shot and killed when she was just 5 years old. Ruthie’s mother watched over her like a hawk. She attended Santa Fe College and then became a young mother. Her dreams of going to medical school were over. She had many different jobs, one of which turned into a nightmare of sexual harassment. Ruthie became very depressed and started to miss work due to her co-worker’s sexual advances, and then that company let her go.

What made you apply for a job at the law firm of Robert A. Rush?

Ha! Ha! Ha! I never applied for a job at Robert’s office. I was at home laying on the couch crying my eyes out. I was so depressed, but I had tremendous faith! I had no money and my pride was out the window. After praying, I turned on the television and the news talked about a lawsuit being filed against the county. The contact information was for the Law Office of Robert A. Rush. I could hear a soft still voice telling me to go to that office and speak with them about that lawsuit. I had no idea that God had a plan!

I arrived at Rush’s office a total basket case. I spoke with a former secretary and she said they couldn’t help me. I went back home, but I kept feeling this push to go back. So I did! The secretary said, “Ma’am I told you that we couldn’t help you!” I said, “I know! I’m back to speak with an attorney regarding my employment termination.”

I met with Attorney Marynelle Hardee. I told her that it was my son’s birthday, I didn’t have any money to even get him a gift, and I was in a desolate place. I had filed a complaint with the EEOC office against my former employer and supervisor prior to being terminated from my job due to working in a hostile work environment, abuse of authority and sexual harassment. We discussed the case, and she told me that she would get in touch with me to let me know if she would take my case. She reached in her purse and pulled out $25 dollars and said to buy my son a birthday gift. I was crying uncontrollably, I told her that I couldn’t take her money, and I wasn’t there for a handout. She insisted and said you can pay me back later. I agreed to pay her back as soon as I found a job! By the time I got home, my phone rang. It was Attorney Hardee. She said, “I haven’t made a decision about your case, but we need a receptionist.” She asked if I could type, and if I would be interested in the position and asked when I could start. I started the following day!

Mr. Rush was not in the office, and he had no idea that he had a new employee! The next day, a nicely dressed gentleman walked into the office and started down the hallway. I jumped up from my desk and in front of him, “Can I help you?”. He said no! I said, “You can’t go back there sir, how can I help you?”. He attempted to continue walking and I threw my arms out to block him from entering the hallway. He asked who I was, and I told him my name is Ruthie – the new receptionist.. He asked who hired me, and I told him that Attorney Marynelle Hardee did. He yelled out, “Marynelle, get out here!”. He asked her if she hired me, if she interviewed me, if she knew anything about me. She told him that I lost my job, that it was my son’s birthday, that she felt sorry for me, and that they needed a receptionist nonetheless. “Good job,” he said, “because if she won’t let me into my own office, this is who I want working for me!”. And, 25 years later, I am still walking through the door that God opened for me!

Prior to coming to work for Robert, my life was in a volatile state. I went through a really rough time with my previous employer because of unwanted behaviors and abuse of power. When you are put in a position where you are controlled and mistreated on the job, you are left feeling empty and alone. I have never had to worry about that since I’ve been working for Robert. He genuinely loves all of his staff!

Let me tell you how big Mr. Rush’s heart is. I had been working for Robert for about 2 years when my vehicle was repossessed at work. One of the attorney’s came and told me that a tow truck was taking my car away.

“Ruthie is invaluable. She is an excellent people-person and makes our clients feel cared for. Her kindness and understanding of people and their problems make her very valuable to my business. Oh, and her…homemade cakes! I feel very fortunate to have worked with her for so many years and look forward to many more.”

-Robert A. Rush

I told him that it was okay, because God’s going to make a way for me to get another one. Mr. Rush said, “Ruthie, I know you haven’t been here long, but the staff here are like family and you are a part of this family. If something is going on, I don’t know unless you tell me. I am here for my staff, and I am concerned about what happens with all of you. If anyone needs me, I want to be of assistance.” He wrote me a check and told me to go get it. Mr. Rush helped me get my car back – I was in total shock! I have spent most of my life helping people, catering to other people’s needs, and never really had anyone do anything for me. I believe Robert knew that I was really struggling. One day, he overheard one of my conversations with a rental company about the refrigerator that I had. He called me into his office and gave me a blank check and told me to go and get myself a refrigerator for my home. He told me he didn’t put an amount because he wanted me to get the one that I wanted – a good one. I told my mother that I didn’t understand it. I didn’t want any handouts! She said, “Ruthie, when God opens a door, don’t close it on your own! Let God be your guide.” That year, I received my first bonus check, which was enough for me to pay off my bills. I remember going home and crying for hours. Not only had he done this for me, but throughout my time with the firm, I have witnessed his kindness toward many people of all backgrounds out of the kindness of his heart. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that God placed him in my life! I find myself having such compassion for my boss. I love him like a father. My biggest regret working for the firm would be that I am “always” late to work! But, I stay late to make up for it!

Over the years, I have enjoyed helping our clients. They are most important. When you are working in any level of customer service, you have to be prepared to deal with any issues. One never knows what a person may be going through if you don’t hear their story. Most importantly, you have to have patience and respect for others.

When people walk through Mr. Rush’s door, they are in a place of brokenness. You don’t know what they may have encountered. That’s where they meet me, a loving, caring, understanding, compassionate employee, and Mr. Rush expects nothing less. When people come to his office, they are in a place where they have encountered situations that has caused difficulty in their life, or matters that have affected them or their family negatively. They want someone to assist them, who cares, who has the ability to help them get through their ordeal with positive or satisfactory results. Moreover, sometimes one may not be sure how their situation may turn out, you probably want someone to be there who believes in your truth! The Law Office of Robert A. Rush is where you want to come when you need legal guidance, legal knowledge, and help! All situations may not turn out the way you want or expect them too, but when you want to be treated with dignity and respect, you want our firm on your side!

Jake Rush, Anne Rush, Robert Rush and Marian Rush

What is the most memorable thing that has happened at work?

One day, I was really thirsty and wanted a bottle of water. I walked across the street to a store and purchase a bottled drink. When I got back in the office, I opened my water, got up from my desk and went to the back of the office. When I returned to my desk, I picked up the bottle to take a drink. As I started to turn the bottle up, one of the attorneys was walking in the door. He asked what I was drinking. I said, “Zima!”. He burst out laughing. “So now you’re drinking on the job!” I told him that it was just water and that I don’t drink. He said, “Ruthie, it is alcohol.” I read the label, and I was so embarrassed. So, I got up from my desk and poured it down the sink. And to this day, they have never let me live this one down!

What has surprised you about working for Robert Rush?

Knowing how much he really cares about his clients and his staff. When you have work with your boss as long as I have worked for Robert, you learn their ways, likes and dislikes. I have never had a misunderstanding with him, and I have always been open and honest with him. He treats his clients like family. He’s very passionate about his business and his clients’ cases and concerns, and seeing that his compassion for his clients and people in general has never, ever, waivered says a lot about his character. His heart is as big as his name!

A good character will take you places throughout life with great results. I am grateful that I met Robert in this lifetime. Robert adheres to what is right, and he has a high standard of conduct. Now that’s a man of honor!